This one-two punch from China and Russia marks the end of American adventurism

15 Jan, 2022 

By Bradley Blankenship

Source

FILE PHOTO. © Getty Images / Gokhan Sahin
Syria’s inclusion in the Belt and Road Initiative is the final act in a long saga against American imperialism that shows how China and Russia can effectively counter U.S. intervention in the future.

Damascus officially joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on Wednesday, which will provide a massive lifeline to the country that has been torn to shreds after more than a decade of war and Western sanctions. But more than this, this development has set a precedent that will fundamentally change the geopolitical landscape. 

This is because the decade-spanning Syrian conflict has hosted several proxy conflicts, which has invariably left the United States and its Western allies the losers. 

For starters, while the conflict itself was, at least initially, part of the Arab Spring in the early 2010s, numerous sources (including U.S. government sources published by WikiLeaks) suggest that the United States had been seeking regime change in Syria long before then. There are also countless reports by very good journalists, including on RT, that have dug up these connections.

However, this attempt devolved so quickly, and was so futile and messy, that the U.S. had ended up siding with the very terrorists it sought to destroy in the wake of 9/11. Syria was almost completely overrun by the likes of Islamic State (formerly ISIS; the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and was on the verge of becoming a terror nexus – until Russia intervened in September 2015.

This was not a Russian invasion per se, but a legitimate intervention based on an invitation from Syrian President Bashar Assad. I was actually in college when this happened and remember discussing on my radio show how huge of a deal this was. Another major power was cleaning up America’s mess with boots on the ground. 

From then until now, the UN-recognized Syrian government has managed to regain virtually all its territory, and extremist elements like the Islamic State group have been pushed back. There remain a few holdouts, for example, near the Turkish border and in the country’s southeast still occupied by U.S. forces, but the difficulty faced in the country’s attempt to get back to normal has to do with external forces.

There’s the diplomatic side, but, since Syria has continued as a UN member, this has primarily been a regional issue. Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended in 2011 as the conflict began, however it’s highly anticipated that it will be readmitted very soon – perhaps even at the group’s next summit in March. 

Other welcoming signs of Syria’s normalization are the fact that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain both reopened their Syrian embassies, Jordan reopened its border with Syria in September and the global law enforcement body Interpol readmitted Syria to its ranks in October

But the main problem for a true normalization of Syria on the world stage is its access to international finance and trade, which has been nearly impossible thanks to U.S.-led sanctions, including the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019, called the Caesar Act. 

Journalists have reported since the implementation of these latest sanctions that they have actually been more detrimental to the country than the war itself, and this corrosive effect has also extended to the country’s neighbors, like Lebanon. Never mind the intended effects of these sanctions, the reality is that they are artificially placing the country in a position where rebuilding from this devastating war is impossible. 

Enter China. As the second-largest economy in the world and the driving force behind the greatest global infrastructure and development drive in history, the BRI is a natural fit for Syria. It will help the country rebuild, rebound and provide win-win opportunities for both countries while also likely bringing the conflict, finally, to an end. It is the quintessential example of how America bombs and China builds. 

While that is certainly something on its own, in the context of how this U.S.-led foreign intervention was resisted largely thanks to Russia, I believe it shows a sort of one-two punch that can and will be repeated. 

Even if this was not coordinated originally, it is a precedent I believe both Moscow and Beijing should and undoubtedly will apply elsewhere. It goes to show that Washington’s military and economic aggression can both be countered if Russia and China work in tandem as a bulwark against unilateralism. It’s for this reason I believe Syria will be the graveyard of American adventurism. 

Chris Hedges: PEN America and the Betrayal of Julian Assange

December 27th, 2021

By Chris Hedges

Source

Careerists and Democratic Party apparatchiks successfully leverage corporate money and backing to seize and deform historic rights organizations into appendages of the ruling class.

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, is one of the very few establishment figures to denounce the judicial lynching of Julian Assange. Melzer’s integrity and courage, for which he has been mercilessly attacked, stand in stark contrast to the widespread complicity of many human rights and press organizations, including PEN America, which has become a de facto subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee.

Those in power, as Noam Chomsky points out, divide the world into “worthy” and “unworthy” victims. They weep crocodile tears over the plight of Uyghur Muslims persecuted in China while demonizing and slaughtering Muslims in the Middle East. They decry press censorship in hostile states and collude with the press censorship and algorithms emanating from Silicon Valley in the United States. It is an old and insidious game, one practiced not to promote human rights or press freedom but to envelop these courtiers to power in a sanctimonious and cloying self-righteousness. PEN America can’t say the words “Belarus,” “Myanmar” or the Chinese tennis star “Peng Shuai” fast enough, while all but ignoring the most egregious assault on press freedom in our lifetime. PEN America only stopped accepting funding from the Israeli government, which routinely censors and jails Palestinian journalists and writers in Israel and the occupied West Bank, for the literary group’s annual World Voices festival in New York in 2017 when more than 250 writers, poets and publishers, many members of PEN, signed an appeal calling on the CEO of PEN America, Suzanne Nossel, to end PEN America’s partnership with the Israeli government. The signatories included Wallace ShawnAlice WalkerEileen Myles, Louis Erdrich, Russel Banks, Cornel WestJunot Díaz and Viet Thanh Nguyen. To stand up for Assange comes with a cost, as all moral imperatives do. And this is a cost the careerists and Democratic Party apparatchiks, who leverage corporate money and corporate backing to seize and deform these organizations into appendages of the ruling class, do not intend to pay.

PEN America is typical of the establishment hijacking of an organization that was founded and once run by writers, some of whom, including Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer, I knew. Nossel is a former corporate lawyer, listed as a “contributor” to The Federalist Society, who worked for McKinsey & Company and as Vice President of US Business Development for Bertelsmann.  Nossel, who has had herself elevated to the position of the CEO of PEN America, also worked under Hillary Clinton in the State Department, including on the task force assigned to respond to the WikiLeaks revelations. I withdrew from a scheduled speaking event at the 2013 World Voices Festival in New York City and resigned from the organization, which that same year had given me its First Amendment Award, to protest Nossel’s appointment. PEN Canada offered me membership which I accepted.

Nossel and PEN America have stated that the prosecution of Assange raises “grave concerns” about press freedom and lauded the decision by a British court in January 2012 not to extradite Assange. Should Nossel and PEN America have not taken this stance on Assange it would have left them in opposition to most PEN organizations around the world. PEN Centre Germany, for example, made Assange an honorary member. PEN International has called for all charges to be dropped against Assange.

But Nossel, at the same time, repeats every slanderous trope and lie used to discredit the WikiLeaks publisher facing extradition to the United States to potentially serve a 175-year sentence under the Espionage Act. She refuses to acknowledge that Assange is being persecuted because he carried out the most basic and important role of any publisher, making public documents that expose the multitudinous crimes and lies of empire. And I have not seen any direct appeals to the Biden administration on Assange’s behalf from PEN America. “Whether Assange is a journalist or WikiLeaks qualifies as a press outlet is immaterial to the counts set out here,” Nossel said. But, as a lawyer who was a member of the State Department task force that responded to the WikiLeaks revelations, she understands it is not immaterial. The core argument behind the U.S. effort to extradite Assange revolves around denying him the status of a publisher or a journalist and denying WikiLeaks the status of a press publication. Nossel parrots the litany of false charges leveled against Assange including that he endangered lives by not redacting documents, hacked into a government computer and meddled in the 2016 elections, all key points in the government’s case against Assange. PEN America under her direction has sent out news briefs with headlines such as: “Security Reports Reveal How Assange Turned an Embassy into a Command Post for Election Meddling.” The end result is that PEN America is helping to uncoil the rope to string up the WikiLeaks publisher, a gross betrayal of the core mission of PEN.

“There are some things Assange did in this case, or is alleged to have done, that go beyond what a mainstream news outlet would do, in particular the first indictment that was brought about five weeks ago focused specifically on this charge of computer hacking, hacking into a password to get beyond the government national security infrastructure and penetrate and allow Chelsea Manning to pass through all of these documents. That, I think you can say, is not what a mainstream news outlet or a journalist would do,” Nossel said on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC on May 28, 2019.

But Nossel did not stop there, going on to defend the legitimacy of the US campaign to extradite Assange, although Assange is not a US citizen and WikiLeaks is not a US based publication. Most importantly, left unmentioned by Nossel, is that Assange has not committed any crimes.

“The reason that this indictment is coming down now is because Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for years trying to escape his extradition request,” she said on the program. “He faces an extradition request to Sweden where he has been charged with sexual assault and now this huge indictment here in the US and that proceeding will play out over a long period. He will make all sorts of arguments about why he faces a form of legal jeopardy that should immunize him from being extradited, but there are extradition treaties. There are legal assistance treaties where countries are able to prosecute nationals of other countries and bring them back to face charges when they have committed a crime. This is happening pursuant to that. There are US nationals who are charged and convicted in foreign courts.”

WikiLeaks released U.S. military war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, a cache of 250,000 diplomatic cables and 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs along with the 2007 “Collateral Murder” video, in which U.S. helicopter pilots banter as they gun down civilians, including children and two Reuters journalists, in a Baghdad street. The material was given to WikiLeaks in 2010 by Chelsea Manning, then private first class Pfc. Bradley Manning. Assange has been accused by an enraged U.S. intelligence community of causing “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.” Mike Pompeo, who headed the CIA under Donald Trump, called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service” aided by Russia, rhetoric embraced by Democratic Party leaders.

Assange also published 70,000 hacked emails copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, and earned the eternal hatred of the Democratic Party establishment. The Podesta emails exposed the sleezy and corrupt world of the Clintons, including the donation of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and identified both nations as major funders of Islamic State [ISIL/ISIS]. They exposed the $657,000 that Goldman Sachs paid to Hillary Clinton to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe. They exposed Clinton’s repeated dishonesty. She was caught telling the financial elites that she wanted “open trade and open borders” and believed Wall Street executives were best positioned to manage the economy while publicly promising financial regulation and reform. The cache showed that the Clinton campaign interfered in the Republican primaries to ensure that Donald Trump was the Republican nominee, assuming he would be the easiest candidate to defeat. They exposed Clinton’s advance knowledge of questions in a primary debate and her role as the principal architect of the war in Libya, a war she believed would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate.

The Democratic Party, which blames Russian interference for its election loss to Trump, charges that the Podesta emails were obtained by Russian government hackers. Hillary Clinton calls WikiLeaks a Russian front. James Comey, the former FBI director, however, conceded that the emails were probably delivered to WikiLeaks by an intermediary, and Assange has said the emails were not provided by “state actors.”

“A zealous prosecutor is going to look at someone like Assange and recognize that he’s a very unpopular figure for a hundred different reasons, whether it’s his meddling in the 2016 elections, his political motivations for that, or the blunderbuss nature of these disclosures,” Nossel said on Leher’s program. “This is not a leak that was designed to expose one particular policy or effectuate a specific change in how the US government was going about its business. It was massive and indiscriminate, while in the beginning they worked with journalists to be careful about redacting names of individuals. I was actually working at the State Department during the WikiLeaks disclosure period, and I was briefly on a task force to respond to the WikiLeaks disclosures and there was really a sense of alarm about individuals whose lives would be in danger, people who had worked with the US, provided information, human rights defenders who had spoken to embassy personnel on a confidential basis. There is a problem of over classification, but there is also good reason to classify a lot of this stuff and they made no distinction between that [which] was legitimately classified and not.”

Any group of artists or writers overseen by a CEO from corporate America inevitably become members of an updated version of the Union of Soviet Writers where the human rights violations by our enemies are heinous crimes and our own violations and those of our allies are ignored or whitewashed. As Julian Benda reminded us in “The Treason of the Intellectuals,” we can serve privilege and power or we can serve justice and truth. Those, Benda warns, who become apologists for those with privilege and power destroy their capacity to defend justice and truth.

Where is the outrage from an organization founded by writers to protect writers about the prolonged abuse, stress and repeated death threats, including from Nossel’s former boss, Hillary Clinton, who allegedly quipped at a staff meeting, “Can’t we just drone this guy?” (and didn’t deny it later) or from the CIA which discussed kidnapping and assassinating Assange?  Where is the demand that the trial of Assange be thrown out because the CIA through UC Global, the security firm at the embassy, secretly taped the meetings, and all other encounters, between Assange and his lawyers, obliterating attorney-client privilege? Where is the public denunciation of the extreme isolation that has left Assange, who suffered a stroke during court video proceedings on October 27, in precarious physical and psychological health? Where is the outcry over his descent into hallucinations and deep depression, leaving him dependent on antidepressant medication and the antipsychotic quetiapine? Where are the thunderous condemnations about the ten years he has been detained, seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and nearly three in the high-security Belmarsh prison, where he has had to live without access to sunlight, exercise and proper medical care? “His eyes were out of sync, his right eyelid would not close, his memory was blurry,” his fiancé Stella Morris said of the stroke. Where are the demands for intervention and humane treatment, including an end to his isolation, once it was revealed Assange was pacing his cell until he collapsed, punching himself in the face and banging his head against the wall? Where is the fear for his life, especially after “half of a razor blade” was discovered under his socks and it was revealed that he called the suicide hotline run by the Samaritans because he thought about killing himself “hundreds of times a day”? Where is the call to prosecute those who committed the war crimes, carried out the torture and engaged in the corruption WikiLeaks exposed? Not from PEN America.

Melzer in his book “The Trial of Julian Assange,” the most methodical and detailed recounting of the long persecution by the United States and the British government of Assange, blasts those like Nossel who blithely peddle the lies used to tar Assange and cater to the powerful.

When Assange was first charged, he was not charged with espionage by the United States. Rather, he was charged with a single count of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.” This charge alleged that he conspired with Manning to decrypt a password hash for the US Department of Defense computer system. But as Melzer points out, “Manning already had full ‘top secret’ access privileges to the system and all the documents she leaked to Assange. So, even according to the US government, the point of the alleged attempt to decode the password hash was not to gain unauthorized access to classified information (‘hacking’), but to help Manning to cover her tracks inside the system by logging in with a different identity (‘source protection’). In any case, the alleged attempt undisputedly remained unsuccessful and did not result in any harm whatsoever.”

Nossel’s repetition of the lie that Assange endangered lives by not redacting documents was obliterated during the trial of Manning, several sessions of which I attended at Fort Meade in Maryland with Cornel West. During the court proceedings in July 2013 Brigadier General Robert Carr, a senior counterintelligence officer who headed the Information Review Task Force that investigated the impact of WikiLeaks disclosures on behalf of the US Department of Defense, told the court that the task force did not uncover a single case of someone who lost their lives due to the publication of the classified documents by WikiLeaks. As for Nossel’s claim that “in the beginning they worked with journalists to be careful about redacting names of individuals” she should be aware that the decryption key to the unredacted State Department documents was not released by Assange, but Luke Harding and David Leigh from The Guardian in their book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.

When the ruling class peddles lies there is no cost for parroting them back to the public. The cost is paid by those who tell the truth.

On November 27, 2019, Melzer gave a talk at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to dedicate a sculpture by the Italian artist Davide Dormino. Figures of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, cast in bronze, stood on three chairs. A fourth chair, empty, was next to them inviting others to take a stand with them. The sculpture is called “Anything to Say?” Melzer stepped up onto the fourth chair, the hulking edifice of the US Embassy off to his right. He uttered the words that should have come from organizations like PEN America:

For decades, political dissidents have been welcomed by the West with open arms, because in their fight for human rights they were persecuted by dictatorial regimes.

Today, however, Western dissidents themselves are forced to seek asylum elsewhere,  such as Edward Snowden in Russia or, until recently, Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian  embassy in London.

For the West itself has begun to persecute its own dissidents, to subject them to draconian punishments in political show trials, and to imprison them as dangerous terrorists in high-security prisons under conditions that can only be described as inhuman and degrading.

Our governments feel threatened by Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian  Assange, because they are whistleblowers, journalists, and human rights activists who have provided solid evidence for the abuse, corruption, and war crimes of the powerful, for which they are now being systematically defamed and persecuted.

They are the political dissidents of the West, and their persecution is today’s witch-hunt, because they threaten the privileges of unsupervised state power that has gone out of control.

The cases of Manning, Snowden, Assange and others are the most important test of our time for the credibility of Western rule of law and democracy and our commitment to human rights.

In all these cases, it is not about the person, the character or possible misconduct of these dissidents, but about how our governments deal with revelations about of their own misconduct.

How many soldiers have been held accountable for the massacre of civilians shown in the video “Collateral Murder”? How many agents for the systematic torture of terror suspects? How many politicians and CEOs for the corrupt and inhumane machinations  that have been brought to light by our dissidents?

That’s what this is about. It is about the integrity of the rule of law, the credibility of our  democracies and, ultimately, about our own human dignity and the future of our children.

Let us never forget that!

Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture

The tenuous return to power of the Democratic Party under Joe Biden, and the specter of a Republican rout of the Democrats in the midterm elections next year, along with the very real possibility of the election in 2024 of Donald Trump, or a Trump-like figure to the presidency, has blinded human rights and press groups to the danger of the egregious assaults on freedom of expression perpetrated by the Biden administration. The steady march towards heavy handed state censorship was accelerated by the Obama administration that charged ten government employees and contractors, eight under the Espionage Act, for disclosing classified information to the press. The Obama administration in 2013 also seized the phone records of 20 Associated Press reporters to uncover who leaked the information about a foiled al-Qaida terrorist plot. This ongoing assault by the Democratic Party has been accompanied by the disappearing on social media platforms of several luminaries on the far right, including Donald Trump and Alex Jones, who were removed from Facebook, Apple, YouTube. Content that is true but damaging to the Democratic Party, including the revelations from Hunter Biden’s laptop, have been blocked by digital platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Algorithms have since at least 2017 marginalized left-wing content, including my own.  The legal precedent set in this atmosphere by the sentencing of Assange means that anyone who possesses classified material, or anyone who leaks it, will be guilty of a criminal offense. The sentencing of Assange will signal the end of all investigative inquiries into the inner workings of power. The pandering by press and human rights organizations, tasked with being sentinels of freedom, to the Democratic Party, only contributes to the steady tightening of the vice of press censorship. There is no lesser evil in this fight. It is all evil. Left unchecked, it will result in an American species of China’s totalitarianism capitalism.

A Mass Murdering Regime Dares to Lecture the World on Human Rights

December 24, 2021

Source

Washington is a criminal regime as its illegal wars and deliberate mass murder demonstrate beyond any doubt.

An important report published this week reveals in extensive detail the shocking scale of war crimes committed by the United States in the Middle East. Thousands of civilian deaths, including children, are documented as a result of aerial bombardments conducted by the U.S. military.

It is crucial to remark that the published survey – while voluminous involving thousands of pages and documents – represents only a fraction of the full scale of mass murder. The research focuses on Syria and Iraq over a three-year period between late 2014 and early 2018. Considering that U.S. forces have been occupying those two countries alone for over a decade and considering American military operations contemporaneously in other nations, one can safely assume that the full scale of murder perpetrated is orders of magnitude greater.

The report known as the Civilian Casualty Files was commissioned by the New York Times. It took five years to compile and tortuous legal wrangling to obtain secret Pentagon files. The survey also involved the authors visiting hundreds of locations in Syria and Iraq to record witness testimonies. A good summary is provided here.

Separately, it has been previously estimated that the U.S. decade-long war in Iraq from 2003 onwards caused over one million deaths. What this latest report provides is granular detail of the countless incidents of violence from airstrikes and drone assassinations. Times, dates, villages, hamlets, towns, families, mothers, fathers and children are named in the atrocities that were carried out. But as noted, while the reported information is huge, it is still only a tiny fraction of the full extent of mass murder.

What is disturbingly clear too is the cold and barbaric logic of the Pentagon chiefs and senior figures in both the Obama and Trump administrations. Sitting president Joe Biden was vice-president in the Obama administrations (2008-2016). Civilian deaths were deemed acceptable as “collateral damage” in the pursuit of military-political objectives. Whole families were knowingly obliterated in a haphazard and vague effort to kill suspected terrorists or simply to extend the writ of U.S. imperial power.

What’s more, the Pentagon and the U.S. government covered up the extent of their psychopathic operations. Not one member of the American military or White House administration has ever been disciplined – even internally – for the rampant criminality.

A more recent incident outside of the published study period cited above would fall into the typical mold. That was the killing of a family of 10, including children, in Kabul during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of August. Recall how the Pentagon investigated itself and concluded that no one was to blame for that drone carnage. That case garnered some publicity because the circumstances of a historic U.S. retreat were in the news. Now just imagine how easy it was for the Pentagon to bury other mass murders of civilians that occurred in remote areas of Syria and Iraq.

The published Civilian Casualty Files is substantive evidence for prosecuting U.S. political and military leaders for war crimes. Realistically, this will not happen in the near future, but nevertheless, it is an important archive for future prosecutions and the historical record.

The information is also a devastating exposition of the moral bankruptcy pervading Washington. Thus, a mass-murdering regime in Washington has no authority to lecture, as it arrogantly presumes to do all the time, the rest of the world on human rights and rule of law.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden convened a so-called “Summit for Democracy” for invited world leaders. Biden pointedly excluded Russia and China from the online videoconference, as well as other nations deemed to be “authoritarian” or “undemocratic” by Washington.

It truly is revolting that Washington has such hubris and shamelessness. U.S. governments have systematically waged illegal wars all around the planet involving the destruction of nations and millions of innocent lives. And yet the president of the U.S. has the audacity to pontificate to the whole world about the presumed virtues of democracy, human rights and upholding international law.

This grotesque duplicity and delusion of American leaders is why the U.S. is on a collision course with Russia and China. Washington relentlessly accuses Moscow and Beijing of alleged violations. The tensions being stoked by the United States over Ukraine and Taiwan are pushing the world to the brink of war.

Just this week, President Biden signed into law a ban on imports from China’s western province of Xinjiang. The U.S. accuses China of “genocide” against the minority Uighur Muslim population. Beijing categorically rejects the claims, pointing out that the Uighur population has actually grown over recent years. Beijing says that it takes security measures against radical Uighurs who have been weaponized as part of the U.S. 20-year war in neighboring Afghanistan. In any case, Washington does not provide credible evidence to substantiate its claims. The notable thing is that such lecturing by the United States towards China serves to aggravate tensions which exacerbate other issues over Taiwan and the Olympic Games that Washington is boycotting.

Washington has zero moral authority. It is a criminal regime as its illegal wars and deliberate mass murder demonstrate beyond any doubt.

It should be observed that the Western media largely remained silent this week over the shocking Civilian Casualty Files. The New York Times deserves some credit for publishing the information conducted by outside authors. However, the monstrous scale of criminality has been met with stunning relative silence. That illustrates how the Western media is actually a propaganda system that cannot compute or comment on information that is incongruous with its day-to-day coverage.

The injustice against imprisoned whistleblower Julian Assange should also be highlighted. The mass-murder programs uncovered by the Civilian Casualty Files vindicate Assange and Wikileaks’ earlier publications exposing U.S. war crimes. It is an abomination that Assange is being persecuted and awaiting extradition to the United States where he could be jailed for the rest of his life on fabricated charges of “hacking and espionage”.

The criminality and duplicity of U.S. governments is something to behold in a perverse sort of way. It is astounding that the world is being driven further towards dangerous tensions and possible confrontation by a regime whose record is so nefarious and hypocritical. How is such a gross deception enabled? That is partly due to the function of a Goebbels-like mass media that pretends to publish news instead of propaganda.

They’re Killing Him: Assange’s Stroke Reveals The Western Version Of The Saudi Bone Saw

December 12, 2021

By Caitlin Johnstone

Source

Listen to a reading of this article:

Julian Assange suffered a mini-stroke in October during the hearing for the US appeal of a UK court’s ruling on his extradition case.

“The WikiLeaks publisher, 50, who is being held on remand in the maximum-security jail while fighting extradition to America, was left with a drooping right eyelid, memory problems and signs of neurological damage,” The Daily Mail reports. “He believes the mini-stroke was triggered by the stress of the ongoing US court action against him, and an overall decline in his health as he faces his third Christmas behind bars.”

“Assange was examined by a doctor, who found a delayed pupil response when a light was shone into one eye – a sign of potential nerve damage,” the article reads.

“Julian is struggling and I fear this mini-stroke could be the precursor to a more major attack. It compounds our fears about his ability to survive the longer this long legal battle goes on,” Assange’s fiance Stella Moris told the Daily Mail.

“Assange’s stroke is no surprise,” tweeted UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer in response to the news. “As we warned after examining him, unless relieved of the constant pressure of isolation, arbitrariness and persecution, his health would enter a downward spiral endangering his life.”

Melzer examined Assange with medical experts in 2019 and published a report with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights saying that “Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”

The following year Melzer put it even more bluntly, writing that “Julian Assange displays the typical symptoms of psychological torture. If he doesn’t receive protection soon, a rapid deterioration of his health is likely, and death could be one outcome.”

In October of this year Melzer put it blunter still, saying, “If he should die in prison he has effectively been tortured to death. That’s the reality of it. And I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been working in areas of war. I have a long history of visiting prisoners. I visited Julian Assange, and I had two specialized forensic doctors with me and a psychiatrist evaluating him for four hours, and we all independently from each other came to those conclusions. At that time his life was in danger. And sure enough, a few days after we left the prison he entered a downward spiral.”

They are killing Julian Assange. Experts agree that they are killing him. Assange’s stroke is just another item on the mountain of evidence we already had for this.

The US-centralized power alliance is murdering a journalist, as surely as the Saudi regime murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The only difference is that Khashoggi was killed quickly by live dismemberment via bone saw while Assange is being killed slowly by lawfare.

The Assange extradition case is just the western version of the bone saw treatment. It’s no less barbaric, cruel, vicious and tyrannical; it’s just more media-friendly and better-suited for the Nice Guy Fascism of the western branches of the globe-spanning empire which rules our world. The US, UK and Australian governments are not hacking Assange to pieces in their coordinated campaign toward his destruction, but they may as well be.

The world recoiled in horror when it learned of Khashoggi’s grizzly end, and it won’t be long before the world begins recoiling in the same way to what has been done to Assange as well. Our society is becoming rapidly more conscious; we’re already ashamed of things we thought were fine just a few years ago. We realize now that men like Harvey Weinstein are predators and the Hollywood starlets people used to criticize for “sleeping their way to the top” were actually victims of assault. We realize now it was wrong to crack jokes about the intern Bill Clinton sexually abused. We realize that the “Leave Britney alone” kid everyone made fun of in 2007 was actually on to something. We realize now that it’s wrong to make people feel bad about their sexual orientation or sexual identity. Many movies made even ten or fifteen years ago are uncomfortable to watch now because of how unconscious they were of power dynamics we all see much more clearly now.

And, whether Assange survives this slow-motion assassination attempt or not, it won’t be long before society fully understands that their government and its allies actively conspired to murder a journalist for telling the truth.

Australia urged to support Assange

Dec 11, 21

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen Net

Australian Prime Minister is under criticism for not calling for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after the US overturned a block on his extradition from the UK.

Assange’s lawyers said they will appeal the ruling in the UK’s supreme court.

Australian politicians are urging the government to take a stance and demand the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

On Friday, the US government overturned a block on the extradition of Assange from Britain to face trial for publishing top-secret documents exposing war crimes perpetrated by the US and its allies across the globe, although options to appeal remain open to his legal team.

Washington presented the challenge after a lower court judge in London ruled in January that the 50-year-old journalist would be at a real and oppressive risk of suicide in the US justice system.

Assange’s lawyers said they will appeal the ruling in the UK’s supreme court.

The Australian federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to demand the release of Assange and “end this lunacy.”

“Mr Assange should be looking forward to spending Christmas with his two young boys and his fiancee, but instead he’s facing a 175-year jail sentence and the very real possibility of living out his final days behind bars,” Wilkie said.

The independent MP accused the UK of being “a lackey of the United States and that Australia is delighted to go along for the ride.”

Similarly, the Greens senator Janet Rice said “foreign Minister Marise Payne must urgently speak to the US and tell them to drop these absurd charges and end Assange’s torture.”

For his part, UN’s special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer described the ruling as a “politically motivated verdict,” and criticized it.

Melzer told the DPA news agency that “This is a shortcoming for the British judiciary,.” stressing that Assange “is not in a condition to be extradited.”

The decision by a London court to allow Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, to be extradited to the United States is “shameful,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday.

Assange has been in custody since 2019, despite the fact that he had served a previous sentence over breaching bail conditions in a separate case.

He had also spent seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid his extradition to Sweden.

“A Lot of Mistakes”: The Guardian and Julian Assange 

November 27th, 2021

By John McEvoy and Pablo Navarrete

Source

Three years on from the explosive Julian Assange/Paul Manafort story, we question whether the Guardian has honored its stated commitment to the truth.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND — In 1921, the Manchester Guardian’s editor, Charles Prestwich Scott, marked the newspaper’s centenary with an essay entitled “A Hundred Years.” In it, Scott declared that a newspaper’s “primary office is the gathering of news. …Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

One hundred years on from Scott’s famous essay, and on the three-year anniversary of the Guardian’s Julian Assange/Paul Manafort story, we question whether the Guardian’s coverage of Julian Assange has honored the newspaper’s stated commitment to the truth.

Based on private communications between a Guardian correspondent and their source inside a security company at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, as well as two exclusive interviews, we trace the events behind two of the Guardian’s most explosive stories this decade.

“Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK”

On September 21, 2018, the Guardian published a bombshell report entitled “Revealed: Russia’s secret plan to help Julian Assange escape from UK.” The story detailed an alleged conspiracy between Russian diplomats and WikiLeaks to illicitly smuggle Assange out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

During the months before publication, Guardian correspondent Stephanie Kirchgaessner seemed eager to connect Assange to a Russian plot to escape the embassy.

On July 12, 2018, Kirchgaessner wrote to a source at UC Global, the private security company hired by the Ecuadorian government to protect Assange and its embassy in London: “We heard that the Russians wanted to help Assange and maybe get him a diplomatic visa. This was last year. But then the plan was rejected. By the Russians or by Assange? Why? Can you help? Do you know?”

On August 30, 2018, three weeks before publication, Kirchgaessner wrote again: “Hello. I am trying you again. I want to write a story about the discussions last year to get JA out of the embassy. The talks that happened with the Russians. Can I send you some questions?”

When the article was eventually published, the authors — Kirchgaessner, Dan Collyns, and Luke Harding — claimed that “Russian diplomats held secret talks in London … with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK” in late 2017.

Though it was acknowledged that “details of the Assange escape plan are sketchy,” the authors used two unnamed sources to assert that Fidel Narváez, the former consul at the Ecuadorian Embassy, “served as a point of contact with Moscow.”

The story appeared to add weight to the “Russiagate” narrative – the belief that the Donald Trump campaign colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with help from WikiLeaks. The authors noted that the alleged escape plan “raises new questions about Assange’s ties to the Kremlin.”

The Guardian pulled out all the stops in its September 2018 report attempting to link Assange to Russia

Two individuals with first-hand knowledge of events reject the Guardian’s story, however, and provide details about what really happened in late 2017 when Assange tried to leave the embassy.

In an exclusive interview, Aitor Martinez, a lawyer who oversaw Ecuador’s effort to grant Assange diplomatic protection, explained that plans were drawn up to appoint Assange as an Ecuadorian diplomat and transport him to a third country. That way, Assange could legally leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was subject to arbitrary detention and where his health was declining.

Martinez drew up a list of countries that Ecuador should approach: China, Serbia, Greece, Bolivia, Venezuela or Cuba, noting:

Of course, they were the countries that don’t have good relations with the U.S. and could accept the appointment. Russia was never, ever on that list. There was a huge conspiracy theory in the U.S. with Russiagate; it didn’t make sense. So those were the countries.”

Martinez continued:

It took two or three weeks and we didn’t get any answer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And suddenly the Ministry said that they had appointed him to Russia.”

Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa’s cousin worked at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Moscow and, through this cousin, she concocted a plan to appoint Assange to the one country that was the subject of mass-media hysteria.

“Julian and all of us at the legal team refused this appointment,” Martinez explained. “We said, ‘that’s crazy, what are you talking about?’ We refused.”

After Assange’s legal team refused, a second passport was issued to replace the diplomatic passport appointed to Russia, and Martinez personally brought the second passport to Assange at the embassy.

On December 21, Rommy Vallejo — the head of the Ecuadorian intelligence agency, Senain — visited Assange at the embassy to discuss the logistics for his transfer to a third country. Martinez said:

As soon as Vallejo arrived, he left his mobile phone at the entrance. And UC Global opened the mobile and took the IMEI code and also the sim card, as usual. Take into account that Senain was the entity that hired UC Global and this was the chief of Senain, and they spied on him.”

Martinez continued, referring to open court documents:

According to the UC Global chat, they were listening through the door and everything. They knew everything about the operation and we didn’t know they were spying on us, and reporting everything to the Americans, according to the witness declarations before the Spanish court.”

Martinez can reveal how, over the following days, the U.S. learned of Assange’s plans to leave the embassy. The Minister of Foreign Affairs called Martinez and asked:

What the hell happened? This is crazy, this operation plan was secret, was handled just by five or six people, and suddenly the U.S. ambassador in Quito came to my office and told me: ‘We know that Julian Assange is about to leave the embassy using a diplomatic passport, and we will never allow it.’”

Martinez explained that, at the time, Assange’s legal team couldn’t figure out how the Americans learned about this operation. “Now we can assume that it was because UC Global sent information about the plan. So, she [the foreign minister] said we have to stop everything because the Americans know,” he said.

At this time, the U.S. intelligence agencies were pressuring UC Global to link Assange with Russia. Martinez said:

UC Global drafted exaggerated and faked reports for the Americans. The protected [UC Global] witness claimed before a court that they had drafted exaggerated reports just to feed the Americans with information and to show that UC Global is very important for them at the embassy. If you check UC Global reports, it’s very funny; they make up everything.”

A recent Yahoo! News article suggests that these reports were taken seriously.

As well as listening through the wall, UC Global staff secretly recorded video and audio footage of Assange and Vallejo’s meeting. “They even created a Dropbox link to send it – they took the data, cut the conversation and sent it to Morales,” said Martinez. This footage was then presumably sent to Morales’s handlers in the U.S.

Assange Surveillance
Surveillance footage shows Assange meeting with a confidant at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Screenshot | El Pais

On November 12, 2018, Kirchgaessner contacted a source within UC Global requesting access to the transcript of Assange’s meeting with Vallejo.

Kirchgaessner wrote: “Hola. The transcript?”

Her source responded: “In this moment its [sic] difficult I think tomorrow I can”

Kirchgaessner was thankful: “Really? That would be amazing. You know which one I mean?”The next day, Kirchgaessner messaged again: “Hello. I mean the one with Rommy Vallejo.”

Kirchgaessner never received the transcript. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that the Guardian knew that a security company hired to protect Assange was in fact compiling transcripts on his private meetings long before this became public knowledge, and this wasn’t treated as the story. The Guardian instead promoted a narrative that Assange’s team was conspiring with Russia to illicitly flee the embassy.

To the contrary, Martinez emphasised that Ecuador had tried to help Assange leave the embassy through legal diplomatic channels, before the U.S. caught wind of the plan through a corrupt security firm that was clandestinely spying on Assange.

“A lot of mistakes”

Fidel Narváez, former consul at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, categorically denies holding secret discussions with Russian diplomats. Narváez said:

I challenged the Guardian and I said this is false information – there was no Russian escape plan. To start with there was not an escape plan – escape, which means something clandestine, illicit, something not legal. That, there was not ever. Let alone something devised or orchestrated by a third country.”

Narváez lodged a formal complaint against the Guardian, attesting that “the Guardian has not, and cannot, substantiate with solid evidence its […] false assertions” that “Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year;” and that “a tentative plan was devised that would have seen the WikiLeaks founder smuggled out of Ecuador’s London Embassy.”

On advice from its internal regulator, the Guardian amended the article to emphasize that “the plan in relation to Mr. Assange’s ability to be able to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy was not devised or instigated by Russia,” and that “there was nothing illicit about the ‘plan’ as described in the Article.

The Guardian’s climbdown from its original assertions suggests a loss of confidence in the information provided by its unnamed sources. Indeed, Kirchgaessner was warned by a source inside UC Global that the Guardian was being fed with false information from questionable sources months before the article was published.

On May 16, 2018, following the Guardian’s reporting on Operation Hotel (Ecuador’s multi-million-dollar operation to support Assange’s embassy stay), Kirchgaessner was told by a UC Global source:

I’ve read part of your article and [Ecuadorian news agency] plan V; there are a lot of mistakes and things that are confused or mixed; there are people who have provided that information so you do not know why they have given that …”

Perhaps more concerningly, Kirchgaessner appeared to know about the relationship between UC Global’s activities at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and the security company’s proximity to Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson almost a year before it became public knowledge.

UC Global’s loyalties had shifted in 2016, when its CEO David Morales attended a security fair in Las Vegas and won a contract to guard Queen Miri, a multi-million-dollar yacht owned by Adelson. “Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times,” wrote Max Blumenthal, “the contract between UC Global and Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA.” Blumenthal continued:

Throughout the black operations campaign, U.S. intelligence appears to have worked through Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, a company that had previously served as an alleged front for a CIA blackmail operation several years earlier. The operations formally began once Adelson’s hand-picked presidential candidate, Donald Trump, entered the White House in January 2017.

The relationship between Adelson and UC Global’s operations at the Ecuadorian Embassy was first reported in El País in September 2019. Yet on October 12, 2018, Kirchgaessner emailed her source within UC Global: “Also the [Las Vegas] Sands and Sheldon Adelson – did he pay for the embassy to move?”

If Kirchgaessner knew about the relationship between Adelson and UC Global’s activities at the Ecuadorian Embassy, why was it not reported at the time? Indeed, evidence of an elaborate spying operation on Assange, with links to the Republican Party and the Trump administration, would seem to disrupt the narrative of a secret Assange-Trump-Russia plot to subvert American politics – a narrative that the Guardian would not abandon easily.

“Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian Embassy”

On November 27, 2018, while Narváez’s formal complaint to the Guardian about its Assange coverage was still being processed, the newspaper published another blockbuster story claiming that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager and key aide during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, had “held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London” in 2013, 2015, and Spring 2016.

The story was immediately picked up by the world’s largest news outlets, including CNNMSNBC, the Daily Mail, and the Los Angeles Times. “If it’s right,” commented a U.S. national security reporter, “it might be the biggest get this year.”

Indeed, the article appeared to provide additional evidence of “collusion” between WikiLeaks, Trump, and Russia in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. election, during which time WikiLeaks released thousands of Democratic National Committee emails.

As the article’s authors, Luke Harding and Dan Collyns, claimed, the last alleged meeting between Assange and Manafort in Spring 2016 “is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

The Guardian’s Manafort scoop began to unravel almost as soon as it was published.

The WikiLeaks Twitter account responded: “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.” Both Manafort and Assange denied that any of the visits took place.

Indeed, even the Guardian didn’t seem sure.

Though the Guardian’s sources were able to offer precise details about Manafort’s appearance (“casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt”) as well as the meeting’s duration (it “lasted about 40 minutes”), the authors were unable to establish exactly when Manafort allegedly visited.

Within a request for comment sent to WikiLeaks shortly before the article was published, Harding was not even able to specify during which month Manafort’s 2016 visit supposedly occurred. The meeting “took place,” Harding wrote, “in or around March 2016, around the time Manafort joined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” a detail that remained vague within the published article.

In the time since, the Guardian appears to have lost even more confidence in its own report.

Within hours of publication, the Guardian modified its headline to add “sources say” to the original claim that “Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy.” The print edition, issued one day after online publication, added inverted commas: “Manafort ‘held secret talks with Assange’.”

The main body of the report was also modified. Whereas the original claimed that “It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed,” an updated version read that “It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed.” [emphasis added]

Harding’s 2020 book, Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem, and Russia’s Remaking of the West, moreover, makes no mention of Manafort’s alleged meetings with Assange, even though the subject matter’s clear focus is malign Russian involvement in Western politics. Mueller did not mention the alleged meeting in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Despite watering down the article’s key claims, the Guardian has yet to add any correction notes or provide a retraction.

Visitor’s log

In paragraph 14 of the Guardian’s Manafort story, the authors note that: “Visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports. Sources in Ecuador, however, say Manafort was not logged.”

It is curious that the Guardian glided over this crucial point. Narváez, who was in charge of the day-to-day functioning of the embassy, asserted that nobody could enter the building without being logged. Visitors required written approval from the ambassador, before registering their visit with security personnel and leaving a copy of their identification, which would be added to the visitor’s log.

Private UC Global discussions raise even more questions.

On November 22, 2018, five days before the Guardian published its Manafort story, an email was sent from UC Global CEO David Morales, asking: “Do we have a record that Paul Manafort during 2013, 2015, and 2016 visited the embassy?” UC Global staff discussed the matter:

Staff A: Hello… send me the name to search for

Staff B: Paul Manafort

Staff A: Ok, I’ll look and let you know

Any date?

I can’t find anything

Staff B: So there’s nothing?

Staff A: I can only find two Pauls… Stafford and Nigel

It seems that the Guardian’s request for information on visits to the embassy was flushed through Ecuadorian intelligence to UC Global and came back negative. Why did the Guardian glide over crucial evidence that contradicted its key claim, without offering any attempt at explaining why Manafort was not in the visitor’s log?

Indeed, the Guardian had relied on the visitor’s log for a separate story, and had privileged access to it.

On May 6, 2018, Kirchgaessner contacted a source within UC Global, saying:

I am interested in Nigel Farage because he went to see [Assange] once in 2017 and said it was the only time he went to see him. But other people think he went more and I am interested in knowing if that is true. Farage pushed for Brexit and he was also close to the Trump campaign.”

On May 18, 2018, Kirchgaessner emailed once more: “Have you seen what we published this week in the Guardian? We didn’t include the name of the company [UC Global]. […] Could you send me the list of visitors for the first week [sic] of 2016 (January – June 2016)?”

It is also curious that no video or photo evidence of Manafort’s alleged visit was provided, especially given that the Guardian had lines to access the embassy’s CCTV records.

On May 14, 2018, Kirchgaessner emailed a source at UC Global, asking: “Can you bring the video again of him [Assange] outside when you come [to a meeting] tomorrow?” Four days later, Kirchgaessner emailed again: “We are very interested in the video of JA [Julian Assange] outside. Do you think that you could get the film in a few weeks?”

If the Guardian could access CCTV footage at the embassy, why was it not able to provide material evidence of Manafort’s alleged visit? Did the Guardian even ask?

Concealed author

To this day, the online version of the Guardian’s Manafort story presents only two authors: Luke Harding and Dan Collyns.

In early December 2018, however, WikiLeaks wrote that the Guardian had “mysteriously hid[den the] third author of fabricated front page story” – Ecuadorian political activist and journalist Fernando Villavicencio.

In 2014, the Ecuadorian government pointed the finger at Villavicencio for providing the Guardian with allegedly forged documents relating to a secret $1billion “deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon.”

Even before the Guardian’s Manafort story was published, Villavicencio had promoted doubtful claims about Assange’s visitors at the Ecuadorian Embassy. On May 16, 2018, Villavicencio and Cristina Solórzano correctly wrote in La Fuente that “[Nigel] Farage visited Assange in March of last year, stayed for roughly 40 minutes and when asked about why he visited, responded ‘I don’t remember’.”

However, they added that, according to their source, “Farage returned to the embassy the next month, entering 28 April 2018 at 17:10 and leaving at 19:40.”

The allegation was almost certainly false. In late March 2018, the Ecuadorian authorities had removed Assange’s access to the outside world, including a ban on visitors. These rights were only partially restored in October 2018, meaning Farage had supposedly visited while Assange could not accept visitors.

Questions

A number of crucial questions remain unanswered by the Guardian:

  • What did Kirchgaessner know about the relationship between UC Global, Sheldon Adelson, and the Ecuadorian Embassy security operation in 2018, before this was public knowledge? Why was this not reported on at the time?
  • Why did the Guardian not report on the fact that Assange’s private conversations were being transcribed by a security company that was supposed to be protecting him?
  • Did the Guardian continue to use sources in Ecuador’s intelligence service after it was warned that they were spreading disinformation?
  • Given that the Guardian had lines to access CCTV footage at the Ecuadorian Embassy, did it try to attain material evidence of Manafort’s alleged visit? If not, why?
  • Why has the Guardian not added any correction notes or provided a retraction to its Manafort story?
  • Why is the third author of the Manafort story, Fernando Villavicencio, still not listed on the Guardian’s website? Why was he seen as a reputable journalist to cover Assange?

Until these questions are answered, the newspaper cannot credibly defend itself against the charge that it has committed serious journalistic malpractice in its coverage of Julian Assange.

The Guardian did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Chris Hedges: The Most Important Battle for Press Freedom in Our Time

October 30th, 2021

Britain Assange Feature photo

By Chris Hedges

Source

If he is extradited and found guilty of publishing classified material it will set a legal precedent that will effectively end national security reporting.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Scheerpost) – For the past two days, I have been watching the extradition hearing for Julian Assange via video link from London. The United States is appealing a lower court ruling that denied the US request to extradite Assange not, unfortunately, because in the eyes of the court he is innocent of a crime, but because, as Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January concluded, Assange’s precarious psychological state would deteriorate given the “harsh conditions” of the inhumane US prison system, “causing him to commit suicide.” The United States has charged Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count of trying to hack into a government computer, charges that could see him imprisoned for 175 years.

Assange, with long white hair, appeared on screen the first day from the video conference room in HM Prison Belmarsh. He was wearing a white shirt with an untied tie around his neck. He looked gaunt and tired. He did not appear in court, the judges explained, because he was receiving a “high dose of medication.” On the second day he was apparently not present in the prison’s video conference room.

Assange is being extradited because his organization WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes — including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to US checkpoints. He is also being targeted by US authorities for other leaks, especially those that exposed  the hacking tools used by the CIA known as Vault 7, which enables the spy agency to compromise cars, smart TVs, web browsers and the operating systems of most smart phones, as well as operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux.

If Assange is extradited and found guilty of publishing classified material, it will set a legal precedent that will effectively end national security reporting, allowing the government to use the Espionage Act to charge any reporter who possesses classified documents, and any whistleblower who leaks classified information.

If the appeal by the United States is accepted Assange will be retried in London. The ruling on the appeal is not expected until at least January.

Assange’s September 2020 trial painfully exposed how vulnerable he has become after 12 years of detention, including seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has in the past attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. He suffers from hallucinations and depression, takes antidepressant medication and the antipsychotic quetiapine. After he was observed pacing his cell until he collapsed, punching himself in the face and banging his head against the wall he was transferred for several months to the medical wing of the Belmarsh prison. Prison authorities found “half of a razor blade” hidden under his socks. He has repeatedly called the suicide hotline run by the Samaritans because he thought about killing himself “hundreds of times a day.”

James Lewis, the lawyer for the United States, attempted to discredit the detailed and disturbing medical and psychological reports on Assange presented to the court in September 2020, painting him instead as a liar and malingerer. He excoriated the decision of Judge Baraitser to bar extradition, questioned her competence, and breezily dismissed the mountains of evidence that high-security prisoners in the United Sates, like Assange, subjected to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), and held in virtual isolation in supermax prisons, suffer psychological distress. He charged Dr. Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, who examined Assange and testified for the defense, with deception for “concealing” that Assange fathered two children with his fiancée Stella Morris while in refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He said that, should the Australian government request Assange, he could serve his prison time in Australia, his home country, after his appeals had been exhausted, but stopped short of promising that Assange would not be held in isolation or subject to SAMs.

The authority repeatedly cited by Lewis to describe the conditions under which Assange will be held and tried in the United States was Gordon Kromberg, the Assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Kromberg is the government’s grand inquisitor in cases of terrorism and national security. He has expressed open contempt for Muslims and Islam and decried what he calls “the Islamization of the American justice system.” He oversaw the 9-year persecution of the Palestinian activist and academic Dr. Sami Al-Arian and at one point refused his request to postpone a court date during the religious holiday of Ramadan. “They can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury. All they can’t do is eat before sunset,” Kromberg said in a 2006 conversation, according to an affidavit filed by one of Arian’s attorneys, Jack Fernandez.

Kromberg criticized Daniel Hale, the former Air Force analyst who recently was sentenced to 45 months in a supermax prison for leaking information about the indiscriminate killings of civilians by drones, saying Hale had not contributed to public debate, but had “endanger[ed] the people doing the fight.” He ordered Chelsea Manning jailed after she refused to testify in front of a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. Manning attempted to commit suicide in March 2020 while being held in the Virginia jail.

Having covered the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was arrested in London in 2006, I have a good idea of what waits Assange if he is extradited. Hashmi also was held in Belmarsh and extradited in 2007 to the United States where he spent three years in solitary confinement under SAMs. His “crime” was that an acquaintance who stayed in his apartment with him while he was a graduate student in London had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks in luggage at the apartment. The acquaintance planned to deliver the items to al-Qaida. But I doubt the government was concerned with waterproof socks being shipped to Pakistan. The reason, I suspect, Hashmi was targeted was because, like the Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian, and like Assange, he was fearless and zealous in his defense of those being bombed, shot, terrorized and killed throughout the Muslim world while he was a student at Brooklyn College.

Hashmi was deeply religious, and some of his views, including his praise of the Afghan resistance, were controversial, but he had a right to express these sentiments. More important, he had a right to expect freedom from persecution and imprisonment because of his opinions, just as Assange should have the freedom, like any publisher, to inform the public about the inner workings of power. Facing the possibility of a 70-year sentence in prison and having already spent four years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, Hashmi accepted a plea bargain on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism. Judge Loretta Preska, who sentenced the hacker Jeremy Hammond and human rights attorney Steven Donziger, gave him the maximum 15-year sentence. Hashmi was held for nine years in Guantanamo-like conditions in the supermax ADX [Administrative Maximum] facility in Florence, Colorado, where Assange, if found guilty in an American court, will almost certainly be imprisoned. Hashmi was released in 2019.

The pre-trial detention conditions Hashmi endured were designed to break him. He was electronically monitored 24-hours a day. He could only receive or send mail with his immediate family. He was prohibited from speaking with other prisoners through the walls. He was forbidden from taking part in group prayer. He was permitted one hour of exercise a day, in a solitary cage without fresh air. He has unable to see most of the evidence used to indict him which was classified under the Classified Information Procedures Act, enacted to prevent US intelligence officers under prosecution from threatening to reveal state secrets to manipulate the legal proceedings. The harsh conditions eroded his physical and psychological health. When he appeared in the final court proceeding to accept a guilty plea he was in a near catatonic state, clearly unable to follow the proceedings around him.

If the government will go to this length to persecute someone who was alleged to have been involved in sending waterproof socks to al-Qaida, what can we expect the government to do to Assange?

A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice. The battle for Assange’s liberty has always been much more than the persecution of a publisher. It is the most important battle for press freedom of our era. And if we lose this battle, it will be devastating, not only for Assange and his family, but for us.

Tyrannies invert the rule of law. They turn the law into an instrument of injustice. They cloak their crimes in a faux legality. They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality. Those, such as Assange, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence. The long campaign against Assange and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism, a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations and the security and surveillance state.

There is no legal basis to hold Assange in prison. There is no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the US Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Assange and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Assange is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration.The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious courtiers in the media, are guilty of egregious crimes. Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins of the media landscape. Prove this truth, as Assange, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden have by allowing us to peer into the inner workings of power, and you are hunted down and persecuted.

Assange’s “crime” is that he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians. He exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo. He exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime. He exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, which authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of US citizens in Yemen. He exposed that the United States secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians. He exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform. He exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party. He exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.

He exposed the truth. He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite. And for these truths alone he is guilty.

The Lebanese Forces: A Long Bloody History

17 Oct, 2021

Source: Al Mayadeen

By Ali Jezzini

The LF started as a military wing of the Lebanese Front and committed horrible atrocities during the Lebanese Civil War. However, this did not prevent it, openly and discreetly, from attempting to stir up a second one.

Visual search query image
Thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian nationals lost their lives in the Sabra and Shatila, and Karantina massacres.

On Thursday, hundreds of citizens were marching towards the Palace of Justice in Beirut. Protesters desired to object to the politicization of what was supposed to be a uniquely juridical process regarding the Beirut Port explosion that rocked the city almost a year and a half ago. 

The demonstration was supposed to be a peaceful act but the reaction the protesters received was not – some did not make it back home to their families. According to security reports cited by various Lebanese media outlets, it is almost certain that at some point in the march, the latter came under fire from snipers belonging to the Lebanese Forces Party (LF). The ambush left 7 people dead including Maryam, a mother of 5, who was deliberately sniped while attempting to get her children to safety after hearing gunfire.

Some hours after the ambush, the Lebanese army issued a statement saying that the rooftops that the snipers were firing from were clear and that arrests were made, without disclosing details about the conducted operation. Amal Movement and Hezbollah issued a statement regarding the armed attack on the peaceful demonstration that took place today in Tayouneh. Both parties blamed the incident on the LF party.

According to a Hezbollah official, Hashim Safi Al-Din, both parties never made the call to the streets and that the organization did not oppose the protests since the Lebanese security forces had it under control. “What was unforeseen was for a certain party to decide to commit murder using military tactics,” Safi Al-Din added. 

How peaceful protesters were shot brought back dark days to the residents of the area – days where innocent people were shot across what was called the Green Line separating Beirut, east and west. Many residents could recall the story of a friend or a relative who was shot by Lebanese Forces snipers during the 1975 Civil War that devastated the country for 15 years: Civilians could be buying groceries, taking kids to school, taking a shower, or just making a living like Ali Ibrahim, a motorbike delivery worker that was killed by the same snipers on Thursday.

A history of massacres

The Lebanese Forces were the armed wing of what was called the Lebanese Front that was formed in 1976 during the eve of the Lebanese Civil War. The armed militia is infamously known for numerous notorious mass murder events against Palestinian and Lebanese Civilians. The Karantina Massacre was not the first one committed by the LF, but the scale was horrendous. One of the poorest areas in Beirut, inhabited by Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian nationals was invaded and its inhabitants were massacred mercilessly. Reports indicate that about 1500 people lost their lives, while the survivors were forcefully evicted from their homes.

Visual search query image
Karantina Massacre, 1976 (Françoise Demulder)

The Sabra and Shatila refugees camp that was inhabited by Palestinian refugees alongside their Lebanese neighbors experienced tragedy on a larger scale. The crimes took another toll, as they were perpetrated with the help and assistance of the Israeli Invasion forces in 1982. Numbers are still contested to this day, but the toll of the victims surely surpasses a thousand and could amount to 3500. Women and children were not spared, as bone-chilling images and testimonies still conjure the horror of the massacre.

Visual search query image
Sabra and Shatila Massacre, 1982 (Institute for Palestine Studies)

Although the Lebanese Forces (1976), as a military wing of the Lebanese Front, and the Lebanese Forces Party (1990) are not the same thing theoretically, however, they bond on the same ideological grounds. The latter is derived from the former, demonstrating the long rift between factions of what was called the Lebanese Front, which was mainly comprised of Phalengists.

Samir Geagea, the head of the current LF party, has a long history of massacres as well. As a demonstration of the formerly mentioned rift, in 1978, Geagea headed an assassination squad that broke into Tony Frangieh’s premises, the head of a rival faction named Al-Marda, and assassinated Frangie with his family, including his wife and his 3-year-old child.

Nahr al-Mawt massacre in 1990 was the last episode of a long series of massacres. In that incident, the LF shot at protesters just before the war ended. The shooting took the lives of 23 unarmed civilians after they marched to an LF checkpoint demanding the removal of barricades that were blocking the Nahr al-Kalb tunnel. Geagea was convicted later on in 1994 for killing former PM Rashid Karami in 1988, in addition to the bombing of Sayidat al-Najat church in Jounieh killing 10 people and wounding 54.

Post-2005 release

Following Geagea’s release from his incarceration amid political turmoil following the assassination of PM Rafik Hariri, it would seem that he and his party would choose to drop arms and wear neckties, but that was never an option. Geagea claimed that he meditated and reviewed his actions during the Civil War, not to repent, but only to conclude that what he did was right.

Without getting into the details of the public Lebanese political debate, what Geagea and his party tell in private suggests more solid evidence of their intentions in continuously destabilizing the country to serve his sectarian goals.

A WikiLeaks document dating back to May 2008 reveals that Geagea was keen to inform the US embassy in Lebanon of his possession of about 7,000 to 10,000 combatants that are ready to fight Hezbollah. In said document, he urged the embassy to send arms and munition. Geagea never changed his stance; al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, reported in October 2020 that the LF leader urged Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese PM, to resign with his parliamentary group, and promised to follow suit. He told Jumblatt that he is ready to fight Hezbollah, raising his combatants’ number to 15,000. Jumblatt responded by describing any attempt to open a military conflict as madness.

In another leak, this time from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs archive, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon sent a cable back home asking the Kingdom to support the LF since Geagea “is the closest to the Kingdom among the Christian leaders and has a firm stance against the Syrian regime; on top of that, he is willing to do what the Kingdom demands of him.” In a second leak, Geagea proceeds to ask for Saudi funding – the ambassador comments in the cable, describing the LF as “the real force that he relies on to deter Hezbollah and those behind it in Lebanon.”

A warlord pushing for a civil war

In an interview with SBI on Friday, Geagea reiterated his ‘no regrets’ stance regarding the ambush and killings of unarmed protesters, blaming the incident on the victims, despite all reports indicating that the perpetrators were LF members. With LF being the weaker faction in this cauldron, it is difficult to find a logical reason as to why they would add more massacres to their long list. It might be that Geagea hopes to start a civil war, as he already hinted on various occasions mentioned before.

The ‘ex-warlord’ probably bets on entangling foreign powers into a hypothetical civil war, namely the US and “Israel”, against his number one rival in Lebanon – Hezbollah. This has been also sustained by Safi Al-Din in his friday’s speech during the victims’ funeral. Safi Al-Din blamed the United States for being behind the incident, saying they are pushing LF to spark a civil war in Lebanon. He also accused the Lebanese Forces of executing US orders in exchange for a payroll.

Two things seem to be certain. The first is, despite the horrors that could face Lebanese society, particularly the LF society, with a second episode of a civil war, Geagea doesn’t seem to hold any regard for that. The second is that the Lebanese faction that desires civil war is incapable of starting one – while the capable tries to avoid it at any cost. For that, another civil war may be far-fetched for the time being. 

Silencing Julian Assange: Why bother with a trial when you can just kill him?

October 7, 2021

By Philip Giraldi

Source

It is an issue of the abuses enabled by powerful men who believe that their power is unlimited, Philip Giraldi writes.

An English friend recently learned about the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plan to either kidnap or kill journalist Julian Assange and quipped “I’ll bet he’s happy to be safe and sound in Belmarsh Prison if he has a chance to read about that!” I replied that his time in Belmarsh has been made as demeaning as possible by an English judge and the British are just as capable of executing a Jeffrey Epstein suicide or “accident” if called upon to do so by their American “cousins.” He agreed, reluctantly. Indeed, the roles of American allies Britain and Australia in what is turning out to be one of the world’s longest-playing judicial dramas has been reprehensible.

For those readers who have missed some of the fun of the Assange saga, a recap is in order. Julian Assange, an Australian citizen who was living in London, was the Editor in Chief and driving force behind Wikileaks, which debuted in 2006 and was one of the alternative news sites that have sprung up over the past twenty years. WikiLeaks was somewhat unique in that it often did not write up its own stories but rather was passed documentary material by sources in government and elsewhere that it then reprinted without any editing.

Assange attracted the ire of the ruling class when he obtained in 2010 a classified video from an unidentified source that showed an unprovoked 2007 shooting incident involving U.S. Army helicopters in Baghdad in which a dozen completely innocent people were killed. The government’s anger at WikiLeaks intensified when, in 2013, Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor, fled to Hong Kong with classified material that demonstrated that the U.S. government was illegally spying on Americans. WikiLeaks also reportedly helped to arrange Snowden’s subsequent escape to Russia from Hong Kong.

The bipartisan animus directed against WikiLeaks intensified still further in the summer of 2016 when the group’s website began to release emails from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The immediate conclusion propagated by Team Hillary but unsupported by facts was that Russian intelligence had hacked the emails and given them to WikiLeaks.

It was perhaps inevitable that Assange’s reporting, which has never been found to be factually inaccurate, was in some circles claimed to be based on information provided to him by Russian hackers. Even though he repeatedly denied that that was the case and there are technical reasons why that was unlikely or even impossible, this led to a sharp Russophobic response from a number of intelligence and law enforcement services close to the United States. Assange was charged in Britain in November 2010 on an international warrant demanding that he be extradited to Sweden over claims that he had committed rape in that country, an accusation which later turned out to be false. He posted bail but lost a legal battle to annul the warrant and then skipped a preliminary hearing in London in June 2012 to accept asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy, which has diplomatic immunity. He stayed in the Embassy for eighty-two months, at which point a new government in Quito made clear that his asylum would be revoked and he would be expelled from the building. He was preparing to leave voluntarily in April 2019 when police arrived and he was arrested on a charge of his failure to appear in court seven years before which was regarded as “bail jumping.” He was sent immediately to Belmarsh high security prison, where Britain’s terrorist prisoners are confined.

After his arrest, Assange continued to be incarcerated due to a U.S. Justice Department extradition request based on the Espionage Act of 1918, apparently derived from possible interaction with the Chelsea Manning whistleblower case. Assange has now been in Belmarsh for 29 months in spite of increasing international pressure asserting that he is a journalist and should be released. The British have hesitated to extradite him on the basis of the evidence produced by the U.S. government, which included the claim that Assange aided the former U.S. Army analyst Manning break into a classified computer network in order to obtain and eventually publish classified material, but they have likewise failed to release him. The British judge denied extradition in January, suggesting that if he were to be returned forcibly to the U.S. he would likely commit suicide, but she also denied Assange bail as he was considered to be a flight risk. The U.S. appealed that verdict and the next hearing is scheduled for the end of October. It should be noted that no evidence produced by the Justice Department has plausibly linked Assange to the Russian intelligence services.

Which brings us to the Yahoo news revelation regarding the CIA plot to shoot, poison or kidnap Assange while he was sheltering in the Ecuadorian Embassy. It goes something like this: in 2017, Assange’s fifth year in the Embassy, the CIA debated going after him to end the alleged threat posed to government secrets by him and his organization, which was still operating and presumed to be in contact with him. WikiLeaks had at that time been publishing extremely sensitive CIA hacking tools, referred to as “Vault 7,” which constituted “the largest data loss in CIA history.”

In an April 2017 speech, Donald Trump’s new CIA Director Mike Pompeo said “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service and has encouraged its followers to find jobs at the CIA in order to obtain intelligence. It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” It was a declaration of war. The label “non-state hostile intelligence service” is a legal designation which more-or-less opened the door to non-conventional responses to eliminate the threat. CIA Stations where WikiLeaks associates were known to be present were directed to increase surveillance on them and also attempt to interdict any communications they might seek to have with Assange himself in the embassy. A staff of analysts referred to as the “WikiLeaks Team” worked full time to target the organization and its leaders.

At the top level of the Agency debate over more extreme options prevailed, though there were legitimate concerns about the legality of what was being contemplated. In late 2017, in the midst of the debate over possible kidnapping and/or assassination, the Agency picked up alarming though unsubstantiated reports that Russian intelligence operatives were preparing plans to help Assange escape from the United Kingdom and fly him to Moscow.

CIA responded by preparing to foil Assange’s possible Russian-assisted departure to include potential gun battles with Moscow’s spies on the streets of London or crashing a car into any Russian diplomatic vehicle transporting Assange to seize him. One scenario even included either blocking the runway or shooting out the tires of any Russian plane believed to be carrying Assange before it could take off for Moscow. Pompeo himself reportedly favored what is referred to as a “rendition,” which would consist of breaking into the Ecuadorian Embassy, kidnapping Assange, and flying him clandestinely to the U.S. for trial. Others in the national security team favored killing Assange rather than going through the complexity of kidnapping and removing him. Fortunately, saner views prevailed, particularly when the British refused to cooperate in any way with activity they regarded as clearly illegal.

So Assange is still in prison and what does it all mean? The only possible charge that would convincingly demonstrate that Assange was spy paid by Russia would be related to his possibly helping Chelsea Manning to circumvent security to steal classified material, but there is no real evidence that Assange actually did that or that he is under Russian control. So that makes him a journalist. That he has embarrassed the United States, most often when it misbehaves, is what good journalists do. But beyond that the disgraceful CIA plans to kill or abduct Assange as an option to get rid of him reveal yet again the dark side of what the United States of America has become since 9/11.

More to the point, getting rid of Assange will accomplish nothing. He worked with a number of like-minded colleagues who have been more than able to pick up where he left off. He has been largely incommunicado since he has been languishing in Belmarsh Prison and it is his associates who have continued to solicit information and publish it on their site. Mike Pompeo’s unapologetic response to this assassination or kidnapping story was “They were engaged in active efforts to steal secrets themselves, and pay others to do the same …” Of course, if all that were true Mike and the government lawyers have had an opportunity to demonstrate just that in a British court. They couldn’t do so and instead promoted the easier option of just killing someone for publishing something true. And assassination is a blunt instrument that rarely accomplishes anything. One recalls that in January 2020 Pompeo certainly participated in the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Militia Leader Muhandis in Baghdad. What did that accomplish apart from turning a nominally friendly Iraq hostile to the U.S. presence?

Or, as Assange’s lawyer put it more to the point, “As an American citizen, I find it absolutely outrageous that our government would be contemplating kidnapping or assassinating somebody without any judicial process simply because he had published truthful information.” Unfortunately, that is not all that the Assange case is about. It is not just a question of truth or fiction and journalistic ethics, but rather an issue of the abuses enabled by powerful men who believe that their power is unlimited. That is the real abyss that the United States has fallen into and the only way out is to finally hold such people, starting with Pompeo, accountable for what they have done.

‘Forever war’ benefiting Afghans? Follow the money

August 23, 2021

Whoever bought Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and other US defense stocks made a literal killing

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

After 20 years and a staggering US$2.23 trillion spent in a “forever war” persistently spun as promoting democracy and benefiting the “Afghan people,” it’s legitimate to ask what the Empire of Chaos has to show for it.

The numbers are dire. Afghanistan remains the world’s 7th poorest nation: 47% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank. No less than 75% of the – dissolved – Kabul government’s budget was coming from international aid. According to the World Bank, that aid was responsible for the turnover of 43% of the economy – one that was mired in massive government corruption.

According to the terms of the Washington-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February 2020, the US should continue to fund Afghanistan during and after its withdrawal.

Now, with the Fall of Kabul and the imminent return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, it’s becoming clear that applying financial soft power tactics may be even more deadly than a mere NATO occupation.

Washington has frozen $9.5 billion in Afghan Central Bank reserves and the International Monetary Fund has canceled its lending to Afghanistan, including $460 million that’s part of a Covid-19 relief program.

These dollars pay for government salaries and imports. Their absence will lead to the “Afghan people” hurting even more, a direct consequence of inevitable currency depreciation, rising food prices and inflation.

A corollary to this economic tragedy is a classic “take the money and run” caper: Former president Ashraf Ghani fled the country after allegedly packing four cars with $169 million in cash, and leaving $5 million on the tarmac of Kabul airport.

That’s according to two witnesses: one of his own bodyguards and the Afghan ambassador in Tajikistan; Ghani has denied the looting allegations.

Ghani’s plane was denied landing in Tajikistan and also Uzbekistan, proceeding to Oman until Ghani was welcomed in the UAE – very close to Dubai, a global Mecca of smuggling, money laundering and racketeering.

The Taliban have already stated that a new government and a new political and economic framework will be announced only after NATO troops are definitively out of the country next month.

The complex negotiations to form an “inclusive” government, as repeatedly promised by Taliban spokesmen, are de facto led on the non-Taliban side by two members of a council of three: former President Hamid Karzai and Ghani’s eternal rival, the leader of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah. The third member, acting in the shadows, is warlord-turned-politician and two-time prime minister Hekmatyar. Gulbuddin

Karzai and Abdullah, both vastly experienced, are regarded by the Americans as “acceptable,” so that may go a long way in terms of facilitating future, official Western recognition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and restored multilateral institution funding.

Yet there are myriad problems including the very active role of Khalil Haqqani, who leads the Taliban Peace Council Commission while on a “terror watch list” and under UN sanctions. Not only is Haqqani in charge of Kabul’s security; he’s also side by side with Karzai and Abdullah in the discussions to form an inclusive government.

What makes the Taliban run

The Taliban have been operating outside of the Western banking system for two decades now. The bulk of their income comes from transit tax on trade routes (for instance, from Iran) and fuel levies. Profits from opium and heroin exports (domestic consumption not permitted) reportedly account for less than 10% of their income.

In countless villages across the deep Afghan countryside, the economy revolves around petty cash transactions and barter.

I received a copy of a high-level Pakistani academia-intelligence paper examining the challenges facing the new Afghan government.

The paper notes that “the standard route of development to be followed will be very pro-people. Taliban’s Islam is socialist. It has an aversion towards wealth being accumulated in fewer hands” – and, crucially, also an aversion to usury.

On the initial steps towards development projects, the paper expects them to come from Russian, Chinese, Turkish, Iranian and Pakistani companies – as well as a few government sectors. The Islamic Emirate “expects infrastructure development packages” at costs that are “affordable by the country’s existing GDP.”

Afghanistan’s nominal GDP in 2020 was $19.8 billion, according to World Bank figures.

New aid and investment packages are expected to come from Shanghai Cooperation Organization member nations (Russia, China, Pakistan) or SCO observers (Turkey and currently Iran – scheduled to become a full member at the SCO summit next month in Tajikistan). Inbuilt is the notion that Western recognition will be a Sisyphean task.

The paper admits that the Taliban have not had time to evaluate how the economy will be the key vector deciding Afghanistan’s future independence.

But this passage of the paper may hold the key: “In their consultations with the Chinese, they were advised to go slow and not rock the boat of the Western world system by talking too soon about state control of capitalism, interest-free economy, and de-linking from the IMF-based financial system. However, since the West has pulled back all the money from the Afghan exchequer, Afghanistan is likely to apply for short-term aid packages against their resource base.”

IMF-NATO as brothers in arms

I asked Michael Hudson, an economics professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City and Peking University, how he would recommend the new government to act. He answered, “For one thing, embarrass the hell out of the IMF for acting as an arm of NATO.”

Hudson referred to a Wall Street Journal article written by a former IMF advisor now with the Atlantic Council as saying that “now, since recognition is frozen, banks all over the world will hesitate to do business with Kabul. This move provides the US with leverage to negotiate with the Taliban.”

So this may be going the Venezuela way – with the IMF not “recognizing” a new government for months and even years. And on the seizure of Afghan gold by the New York Fed – actually a collection of private banks – we see echoes of the looting of Libya’s and seizure of Venezuela’s gold.

Hudson sees all of the above as “an abuse of the international monetary system – which is supposed to be a public utility – as an arm of NATO run by the US. IMF behavior, especially regarding the new drawing rights, should be presented as a litmus test” for the viability of a Taliban-led Afghanistan.

Hudson is now working on a book about the collapse of antiquity. His research led him to find Cicero, in In Favor of the Manilian Law (Pro Lege Manilia), writing about Pompeus’s military campaign in Asia and its effects on the provinces in a passage that perfectly applies to the “forever war” in Afghanistan:

“Words cannot express, gentlemen, how bitterly hated we are among foreign nations because of the wanton and outrageous conduct of the men whom in recent years we have sent to govern them. For, in those countries, what temple do you suppose had been held sacred by our officers, what state inviolable, what home sufficiently guarded by its closed doors? Why, they look about for rich and flourishing cities that they may find an occasion for a war against them to satisfy their lust for plunder.”

Switching from the classics to a more pedestrian level, WikiLeaks has been replaying a sort of Afghanistan Greatest Hits , reminding public opinion, for instance, that as far back as 2008 there was already “no pre-defined end date” for the “forever war.”

Yet the most concise assessment may have come from Julian Assange himself:

“The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war.”

The “forever war” may have been a disaster for the bombed, invaded and impoverished “Afghan people,” but it was an unmitigated success for what Ray McGovern so memorably defines as the MICIMATT (Military-Industrial-Counter-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think Tank) complex. Anyone who bought stocks of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and the rest of that crowd made – literally – a killing.

Facts are indeed dire. Barack Obama – who presided over a hefty Afghan “kill list”  throws a birthday party and invites the woke nouveaux riches. Julian Assange suffers psychological torture imprisoned in Belmarsh. And Ashraf Ghani mulls how to spend $169 million in the Dubai rackets, funds some say were duly stolen from the “Afghan people.”

A Day in the Death of British Justice

August 13th, 2021

By John Pilger

Source

(Originally Published on Mintpressnews on August 12, 2021)

“What has not been discussed today is why I feared for my safety and the safety of our children and for Julian’s life.” — Stella Moris, partner of Julian Assange

Isat in Court 4 in the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday with Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s partner. I have known Stella for as long as I have known Julian. She, too, is a voice of freedom, coming from a family that fought the fascism of Apartheid. Today, her name was uttered in court by a barrister and a judge, forgettable people were it not for the power of their endowed privilege.

The barrister, Clair Dobbin, is in the pay of the regime in Washington, first Trump’s then Biden’s. She is America’s hired gun, or “silk”, as she would prefer. Her target is Julian Assange, who has committed no crime and has performed an historic public service by exposing the criminal actions and secrets on which governments, especially those claiming to be democracies, base their authority.

For those who may have forgotten, WikiLeaks, of which Assange is founder and publisher, exposed the secrets and lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the murderous role of the Pentagon in dozens of countries, the blueprint for the 20-year catastrophe in Afghanistan, the attempts by Washington to overthrow elected governments, such as Venezuela’s, the collusion between nominal political opponents (Bush and Obama) to stifle a torture investigation and the CIA’s Vault 7 campaign that turned your mobile phone, even your TV set, into a spy in your midst.

WikiLeaks released almost a million documents from Russia which allowed Russian citizens to stand up for their rights. It revealed the Australian government had colluded with the US against its own citizen, Assange. It named those Australian politicians who have “informed” for the US. It made the connection between the Clinton Foundation and the rise of jihadism in American-armed states in the Gulf.

There is more: WikiLeaks disclosed the US campaign to suppress wages in sweatshop countries like Haiti, India’s campaign of torture in Kashmir, the British government’s secret agreement to shield “US interests” in its official Iraq inquiry and the British Foreign Office’s plan to create a fake “marine protection zone” in the Indian Ocean to cheat the Chagos islanders out of their right of return.

In other words, WikiLeaks has given us real news about those who govern us and take us to war, not the preordained, repetitive spin that fills newspapers and television screens. This is real journalism; and for the crime of real journalism, Assange has spent most of the past decade in one form of incarceration or another, including Belmarsh prison, a horrific place.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, he is a gentle, intellectual visionary driven by his belief that a democracy is not a democracy unless it is transparent, and accountable.

Yesterday, the United States sought the approval of Britain’s High Court to extend the terms of its appeal against a decision by a district judge, Vanessa Baraitser, in January to bar Assange’s extradition.  Baraitser accepted the deeply disturbing evidence of a number of experts that Assange would be at great risk if he were incarcerated in the US’s infamous prison system.

Professor Michael Kopelman, a world authority on neuro-psychiatry, had said Assange would find a way to take his own life — the direct result of what Professor Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, described as the craven “mobbing” of Assange by governments – and their media echoes.

Those of us who were in the Old Bailey last September to hear Kopelman’s evidence were shocked and moved. I sat with Julian’s father, John Shipton, whose head was in his hands. The court was also told about the discovery of a razor blade in Julian’s Belmarsh cell and that he had made desperate calls to the Samaritans and written notes and much else that filled us with more than sadness.

Watching the lead barrister acting for Washington, James Lewis — a man from a military background who deploys a cringingly theatrical “aha!” formula with defence witnesses — reduce these facts to “malingering” and smearing witnesses, especially Kopelman, we were heartened by Kopelman’s revealing response that Lewis’s abuse was “a bit rich” as Lewis himself had sought to hire Kopelman’s  expertise in another case.

Lewis’s sidekick is Clair Dobbin, and yesterday was her day. Completing the smearing of Professor Kopelman was down to her. An American with some authority sat behind her in court.

Dobbin said Kopelman had “misled” Judge Baraister in September because he had not disclosed that Julian Assange and Stella Moris were partners, and their two young children, Gabriel and Max, were conceived during the period Assange had taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Britain Assange
Stella Moris after attending the first hearing in the Assange extradition appeal in London, Aug. 11, 2021. Matt Dunham | AP

The implication was that this somehow lessened Kopelman’s medical diagnosis: that Julian, locked up in solitary in Belmarsh prison and facing extradition to the US on bogus “espionage” charges, had suffered severe psychotic depression and had planned, if he had not already attempted, to take his own life.

For her part, Judge Baraitser saw no contradiction. The full nature of the relationship between Stella and Julian had been explained to her in March 2020, and Professor Kopelman had made full reference to it in his report in August 2020. So the judge and the court knew all about it before the main extradition hearing last September. In her judgement in January, Baraitser said this:

[Professor Kopelman] assessed Mr. Assange during the period May to December 2019 and was best placed to consider at first-hand his symptoms. He has taken great care to provide an informed account of Mr. Assange background and psychiatric history. He has given close attention to the prison medical notes and provided a detailed summary annexed to his December report. He is an experienced clinician and he was well aware of the possibility of exaggeration and malingering. I had no reason to doubt his clinical opinion.

She added that she had “not been misled” by the exclusion in Kopelman’s first report of the Stella-Julian relationship and that she understood that Kopelman was protecting the privacy of Stella and her two young children.

In fact, as I know well, the family’s safety was under constant threat to the point when an embassy security guard confessed he had been told to steal one of the baby’s nappies so that a CIA-contracted company could analyse its DNA. There has been a stream of unpublicised threats against Stella and her children.

For the US and its legal hirelings in London, damaging the credibility of a renowned expert by suggesting he withheld this information was a way, they no doubt reckoned, to rescue their crumbling case against Assange. In June, the Icelandic newspaper Stundin reported that a key prosecution witness against Assange has admitted fabricating his evidence. The one “hacking” charge the Americans hoped to bring against Assange if they could get their hands on him depended on this source and witness, Sigurdur Thordarson, an FBI informant.

Thordarson had worked as a volunteer for WikiLeaks in Iceland between 2010 and 2011. In 2011, as several criminal charges were brought against him, he contacted the FBI and offered to become an informant in return for immunity from all prosecution. It emerged that he was a convicted fraudster who embezzled $55,000 from WikiLeaks, and served two years in prison. In 2015, he was sentenced to three years for sex offenses against teenage boys. The Washington Post described Thordarson’s credibility as the “core” of the case against Assange.

Yesterday, Lord Chief Justice Holroyde made no mention of this witness. His concern was that it was “arguable” that Judge Baraitser had attached too much weight to the evidence of Professor Kopelman, a man revered in his field. He said it was “very unusual” for an appeal court to have to reconsider evidence from an expert accepted by a lower court, but he agreed with Ms. Dobbin it was “misleading” even though he accepted Kopelman’s “understandable human response” to protect the privacy of Stella and the children.

If you can unravel the arcane logic of this, you have a better grasp than I who have sat through this case from the beginning. It is clear Kopelman misled nobody. Judge Baraitser – whose hostility to Assange personally was a presence in her court – said that she was not misled; it was not an issue; it did not matter. So why had Lord Chief Chief Justice Holroyde spun the language with its weasel legalise and sent Julian back to his cell and its nightmares? There, he now waits for the High Court’s final decision in October – for Julian Assange, a life or death decision.And why did Holroyde send Stella from the court trembling with anguish? Why is this case “unusual”? Why did he throw the gang of prosecutor-thugs at the Department of Justice in Washington – — who got their big chance under Trump, having been rejected by Obama – a life raft as their rotting, corrupt case against a principled journalist sunk as surely as Titantic?

This does not necessarily mean that in October the full bench of the High Court will order Julian to be extradited. In the upper reaches of the masonry that is the British judiciary there are, I understand, still those who believe in real law and real justice from which the term “British justice” takes its sanctified reputation in the land of the Magna Carta. It now rests on their ermined shoulders whether that history lives on or dies.

I sat with Stella in the court’s colonnade while she drafted words to say to the crowd of media and well-wishers outside in the sunshine. Clip-clopping along came Clair Dobbin, spruced, ponytail swinging, bearing her carton of files: a figure of certainty: she who said Julian Assange was “not so ill” that he would consider suicide. How does she know?

Has Ms. Dobbin worked her way through the medieval maze at Belmarsh to sit with Julian in his yellow arm band, as Professors Koppelman and Melzer have done, and Stella has done, and I have done? Never mind. The Americans have now “promised” not to put him in a hellhole, just as they “promised” not to torture Chelsea Manning, just as they promised ……

Britain Assange
A WikiLeaks supporter gives leaflets to passing drivers, during the first Assange extradition appeal hearing in London, Aug. 11, 2021. Matt Dunham | AP

nd has she read the WikiLeaks’ leak of a Pentagon document dated 15 March, 2009? This foretold the current war on journalism. US intelligence, it said, intended to destroy WikiLeaks’ and Julian Assange’s “centre of gravity” with threats and “criminal prosecution”. Read all 32 pages and you are left in no doubt that silencing and criminalising independent journalism was the aim, smear the method.

I tried to catch Ms. Dobbin’s gaze, but she was on her way: job done.

Outside, Stella struggled to contain her emotion. This is one brave woman, as indeed her man is an exemplar of courage. “What has not been discussed today,” said Stella, “is why I feared for my safety and the safety of our children and for Julian’s life. The constant threats and intimidation we endured for years, which has been terrorising us and has been terrorising Julian for 10 years. We have a right to live, we have a right to exist and we have a right for this nightmare to come to an end once and for all.”

Chris Hedges: Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law

June 11th, 2021

Julian Assange Feature photo

By Chris Hedges

Source

Chris Hedges gave this talk at a rally Thursday night in New York City in support of Julian Assange. John and Gabriel Shipton, Julian’s father and brother, also spoke at the event, which was held at The People’s Forum.

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice.

This why we are here tonight.  Yes, all of us who know and admire Julian decry his prolonged suffering and the suffering of his family.  Yes, we demand that the many wrongs and injustices that have been visited upon him be ended.  Yes, we honor him up for his courage and his integrity. But the battle for Julian’s liberty has always been much more than the persecution of a publisher.  It is the most important battle for press freedom of our era.  And if we lose this battle, it will be devastating, not only for Julian and his family, but for us.

Tyrannies invert the rule of law.  They turn the law into an instrument of injustice.  They cloak their crimes in a faux legality.  They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality.  Those, such as Julian, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence.

The long campaign against Julian and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism, a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations.

I was in the London courtroom when Julian was being tried by Judge Vanessa Baraitser, an updated version of the Queen of Hearts in Alice-in Wonderland demanding the sentence before pronouncing the verdict. It was judicial farce. There was no legal basis to hold Julian in prison.  There was no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the U.S. Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Julian in the embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Julian and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Julian is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration.

The U.S. government directed, as Craig Murray so eloquently documented, the London prosecutor James Lewis.  Lewis presented these directives to Baraitser.  Baraitser adopted them as her legal decision.  It was judicial pantomime. Lewis and the judge insisted they were not attempting to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press while they busily set up the legal framework to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press. And that is why the court worked so hard to mask the proceedings from the public, limiting access to the courtroom to a handful of observers and making it hard and at times impossible to access the trial online.  It was a tawdry show trial, not an example of the best of English jurisprudence but the Lubyanka.

Now, I know many of us here tonight would like to think of ourselves as radicals, maybe even revolutionaries.  But what we are demanding on the political spectrum is in fact conservative, it is the restoration of the rule of law.  It is simple and basic. It should not, in a functioning democracy, be incendiary.  But living in truth in a despotic system is the supreme act of defiance.  This truth terrifies those in power.

The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious courtiers in the media, are illegitimate.  Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins of the media landscape.  Prove this truth, as Julian, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden have by allowing us to peer into the inner workings of power, and you are hunted down and persecuted.

Shortly after WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes—including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral Murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to U.S. checkpoints—the towering civil rights attorneys Len Weinglass and my good friend Michael Ratner, who I would later accompany to meet Julian in the Ecuadoran Embassy, met with Julian in a studio apartment in Central London.  Julian’s personal bank cards had been blocked. Three encrypted laptops with documents detailing US war crimes had disappeared from his luggage in route to London. Swedish police were fabricating a case against him in a move, Ratner warned, that was about extraditing Julian to the United States.

“WikiLeaks and you personally are facing a battle that is both legal and political,” Weinglass told Assange. “As we learned in the Pentagon Papers case, the US government doesn’t like the truth coming out. And it doesn’t like to be humiliated. No matter if it’s Nixon or Bush or Obama, Republican or Democrat in the White House. The US government will try to stop you from publishing its ugly secrets. And if they have to destroy you and the First Amendment and the rights of publishers with you, they are willing to do it. We believe they are going to come after WikiLeaks and you, Julian, as the publisher.”

“Come after me for what?” asked Julian.

“Espionage,” Weinglass continued. “They’re going to charge Bradley Manning with treason under the Espionage Act of 1917. We don’t think it applies to him because he’s a whistleblower, not a spy. And we don’t think it applies to you either because you are a publisher. But they are going to try to force Manning into implicating you as his collaborator.”

“Come after me for what?

That is the question.

They came after Julian not for his vices, but his virtues.

They came after Julian because he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians; because he exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo; because he exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003; because he exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime; because he exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, that they authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of U.S. citizens in Yemen, and that they secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians; because he exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform; because he exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party; because he exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.

Julian exposed the truth.  He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite.  And for these truths they came after Julian, as they have come after all who dared rip back the veil on power.  “Red Rosa now has vanished too. …” Bertolt Brecht wrote after the German socialist Rosa Luxemburg was murdered. “She told the poor what life is about, And so the rich have rubbed her out.”

We have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where we, as citizens, are nothing more than commodities to corporate systems of power, ones to be used, fleeced and discarded. To refuse to fight back, to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet from ecocide, to decry the domestic and international crimes of the ruling class, to demand justice, to live in truth, is to bear the mark of Cain. Those in power must feel our wrath, and this means constant acts of mass civil disobedience, it means constant acts of social and political disruption, for this organized power from below is the only power that will save us and the only power that will free Julian.  Politics is a game of fear.  It is our moral and civic duty to make those in power very, very afraid.

The criminal ruling class has all of us locked in its death grip.  It cannot be reformed.  It has abolished the rule of law.  It obscures and falsifies the truth. It seeks the consolidation of its obscene wealth and power. And so, to quote the Queen of Hearts, metaphorically of course, I say, “Off with their heads.”

Group Unveils OPCW Cover-up in Douma Chemical Attack

Group Unveils OPCW Cover-up in Douma Chemical Attack

By Staff, Agencies

The Courage Foundation group dedicated to defending whistleblowers stressed that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] “sidestepped” concerns about its controversial investigation into the 2018 alleged chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma, accusing the body of accepting “unsubstantiated or possibly manipulated” findings.

In a statement, the Courage Foundation highlighted instances in which OPCW inspectors involved with the probe identified major procedural and scientific irregularities.

The group said that former OPCW director general Jose Bustani had recently been prevented by key members of the Security Council from participating in a hearing on the Syrian dossier.

Recently, the group added, a draft letter falsely alleged to have been sent by the OPCW director general to one of the dissenting inspectors was leaked to an open source investigation website in an apparent attempt to smear the ex-OPCW scientist.

The “OPCW management now stands accused of accepting unsubstantiated or possibly manipulated findings with the most serious geopolitical and security implications. Calls by some members of the Executive Council of the OPCW to allow all inspectors to be heard were blocked,” the Courage Foundation said.

“To date, unfortunately, the OPCW senior management has failed to adequately respond to the allegations against it and, despite making statements to the contrary, we understand has never properly allowed the views or concerns of the members of the investigation team to be heard or even met with most of them. It has, instead, side-stepped the issue by launching an investigation into a leaked document related to the Douma case and by publicly condemning its most experienced inspectors for speaking out.”

The statement was signed by almost 30 public figures, including renowned American scholar and political activist Noam Chomsky and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg as well as multiple scientists, including four former OPCW inspectors.

On April 7, 2018, an alleged chemical attack hit Douma near the Syrian capital, Damascus. Western countries were quick to blame it on the Syrian government.

The OPCW’s final report on the incident, published in March 2019, all but confirmed justification for the Western act of aggression.

However, whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released several batches of documents suggesting that the OPCW may have intentionally doctored its findings, notably avoiding revelations which may point to terrorists having been behind the purported gas attack.

“The issue at hand threatens to severely damage the reputation and credibility of the OPCW and undermine its vital role in the pursuit of international peace and security. It is simply not tenable for a scientific organization such as the OPCW to refuse to respond openly to the criticisms and concerns of its own scientists whilst being associated with attempts to discredit and smear those scientists,” the pro-whistleblower group said.

It also called on the OPCW director general “to find the courage to address the problems within his organization relating to this investigation.”

“We believe that the interests of the OPCW are best served by the Director General providing a transparent and neutral forum in which the concerns of all the investigators can be heard as well as ensuring that a fully objective and scientific investigation is completed,” the Courage Foundation noted.

Related Videos

How the Left is being Manipulated into Colluding in its own Character Assassination

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research

By Jonathan Cook

Global Research, January 09, 2021

There was a fascinating online panel discussion on Wednesday night on the Julian Assange case that I recommend everyone watch. The video is at the bottom of the page.  

But from all the outstanding contributions, I want to highlight a very important point made by Yanis Varoufakis that has significance for understanding current events well beyond the Assange case. 

Varoufakis is an academic who was savaged by the western political and media establishments when he served as Greece’s finance minister. Back in 2015 a popular leftwing Greek government was trying to oppose the imposition of severe loan conditions on Greece by European and international financial institutions that risked tipping the Greek economy into deeper bankruptcy and seemed chiefly intended to upend its socialist programme. The government Varoufakis served was effectively crushed into obedience through a campaign of economic intimidation by these institutions.

 Varoufakis describes here the way that leftwing dissidents who challenge or disrupt western establishment narratives – whether it be himself, Assange or Jeremy Corbyn – end up not only being subjected to character assassination, as was always the case, but nowadays find themselves being manipulated into colluding in their own character assassination.

 Here is a short transcript of Varoufakis’ much fuller comments – about 48 minutes in – highlighting his point about co-option:

 “The establishment, the Deep State, call it whatever you want, the oligarchy, they’ve become much, much better at it [character assassination] than they used to be. Because back in the 1960s and 1970s, you know, they would accuse you of being a Communist. They would accuse me of being a Marxist. Well, I am a Marxist. I’m really not going to suffer that much if you accuse me of being a left-winger. I am a left-winger!

 “Now what they do is something far worse. They accuse you of something that really hurts you. Calling somebody like us a racist, a bigot, an antisemite, a rapist. This is what really hurts because if anybody calls me a rapist today, right, even if it’s complete baloney, I feel as a feminist I have the need to give the woman, implied or involved somehow in this accusation, the opportunity to speak against me. Because that is what we left-wingers do.”

Varoufakis’ point is that when Assange was accused of being a rapist, as he was before the US made clear the real case against him – by trying to extradite him from the UK for exposing its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan – he could not defend himself without alienating a significant constituency of his natural supporters, those on the left who identify as feminists. Which is exactly what happened.

 Similarly, as Varoufakis notes from earlier conversations he had with Assange, the Wikileaks founder was in no position to properly defend himself against accusations that he colluded with Russia and Donald Trump to help Trump win the 2016 US presidential election against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

 At the time, Assange’s supporters were able to point out that the leaked emails were true and that they were in the public interest because they showed deep corruption in the Democratic party establishment. But those arguments were drowned out by a narrative confected by the US media and security establishments that Wikileaks’ publication of the emails was political interference because the emails had supposedly been hacked by Russia to sway the election result.

 Because Assange was absolutely committed to the principle of non-disclosure of sources, he refused to defend himself in public by confirming that the emails had been leaked to him by a Democratic party insider, not the “Russians”. His silence allowed his vilification to go largely unchallenged. Having already been stripped of support from much of the feminist left, particularly in Europe, Assange now lost the support of a sizeable chunk of the left in the US too.

In these cases, the one who stands accused has to defend themselves with one hand tied behind their back. They cannot hit back without further antagonising a substantial section of their supporters, deepening divisions within the left’s ranks. The victim of this kind of character assassination is caught in the equivalent of reputational quicksand. The more they fight, the deeper they sink.

Which is, of course, exactly what happened to the UK’s former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn when he was accused of being a racist. If he or his supporters tried to challenge the claim that the party had become antisemitic overnight under his leadership – even if only by citing statistics that showed the party hadn’t – they were immediately denounced for supposed “antisemitism denial”, posited as the modern equivalent of Holocaust denial.

Notice Ken Loach, who was also on the panel, nodding in agreement as Varoufakis speaks. Because Loach, the noted leftwing, anti-racist film-maker who came to Corbyn’s defence against the confected media campaign smearing him as an antisemite, soon found himself similarly accused.

Jonathan Freedland, a senior columnist at the liberal Guardian, was among those using precisely the tactic described by Varoufakis. He tried to discredit Loach by accusing him of denying Jews the right to define their own experience of antisemitism.   

Freedland sought to manipulate Loach’s anti-racist credentials against him. Either agree with us that Corbyn is an antisemite, and that most of his supporters are too, or you are a hypocrite, disowning your own anti-racist principles – and solely in the case of antisemitism. And that, QED, would prove you too are motivated by antisemitism.

Loach found himself with a terrible binary choice: either he must collude with Freedland and the corporate media in smearing Corbyn, a long-standing political ally, or else he would be forced to collude in his own smearing as an antisemite.

It’s a deeply ugly, deeply illiberal, deeply manipulative, deeply dishonest tactic. But it is also brilliantly effective. Which is why nowadays rightists and centrists use it at every opportunity. The left, given its principles, rarely resorts to this kind of deceit. Which means it can only bring a peashooter to a gun fight.

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_K_Cook/status/131348440736224870

This is the left’s dilemma. It’s why we struggle to win the argument in a corporate media environment that not only denies us a hearing but also promotes the voices of those like Freedland trying to destroy us from the centre and those supposedly on the left like George Monbiot and Owen Jones who are too often destroying us from within.

As Varoufakis also says, the left needs urgently to go on the offensive.

We need to find ways to turn the tables on the war criminals who have been gaslighting us in demanding that Assange, who exposed their crimes, is the one who needs to be locked up.

We need to make clear that it is those who are so ready to smear anti-racists as antisemites – as Corbyn’s successor, Sir Keir Starmer, has done to swaths of Labour party members – who are the real racists.

And we need to unmask as war hawks those who accuse the anti-war left of serving as apologists for dictators when we try to stop western states conducting more illegal, resource-grab wars with such devastating results for local populations.

We must get much more sophisticated in our thinking and our strategies. There is no time to lose.

This essay first appeared on Jonathan Cook’s blog: https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/ 

For Years, Journalists Cheered Assange’s Abuse. Now They’ve Paved His Path to a US Gulag

Journalists, Activists Condemn UK Decision to Keep Assange Locked Up without Charge

By Alan Macleod

Source

AUnited Kingdom court has ruled that Wikileaks cofounder Julian Assange must remain in prison, despite an earlier ruling that he could not be extradited to the United States.

Explaining her decision, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that, “As far as Mr. Assange is concerned, this case has not been won,” adding that the United States must be allowed to appeal her earlier decision. Part of the ruling was based upon her assessment of the Australian publisher being a serious flight risk if released, noting he had “huge support networks” that could help him “should he again choose to go to ground.”

The court’s decision was immediately panned by journalists and press freedom organizations who had hoped to see Assange released today, after seven years in prison and hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. “To us, that is nothing more than a pretext to keep him detained. This seems unnecessarily punitive and adding insult to injury after the 10 years of hell that he has endured…We are deeply disappointed with today’s decision,” said Rebecca Vincent, Reporters Without Borders’ Director of International Campaigns, outside the courtroom.

Vincent had been denied entry to the courtroom today, as had some of Assange’s relatives. She had also faced questioning and harassment from police, who used their new powers under the U.K.’s lockdown law to break up pro-Assange demonstrations, even arresting a 92-year-old man.

Julian Assange
Police arrest an Assange supporter outside the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Jan. 6, 2021. Matt Dunham | AP

Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, expressed his disappointment at the news that his client would be heading back to Belmarsh prison in south London. “The logical outcome of the ruling would be he regains liberty at least conditionally,” he stated.

Assange’s colleagues in [alternative] media were also quick to condemn Baraitser’s ruling. “The judge’s decision against bailing Assange only fuels the theory that this prosecution is about keeping a publisher who the U.S. government despises tied up and in limbo so he cannot effectively challenge them ever again,” said Kevin Gosztola, “This is absolutely outrageous for the judge to deny Assange bail and to claim that Belmarsh is doing a fine job of handling COVID, even while London is on lockdown.”

“There are no charges pending against Julian Assange in the U.K. A U.K. judge denied the U.S.’s request to extradite him, the only place where charges are pending. Despite this, the judge just ruled he must remain imprisoned — in a COVID-ridden high-security prison — while the U.S. appeals,” added Glenn Greenwald. “This shows how authoritarian the British judiciary is. The only thing the U.S. cares about is keeping Assange in a cage, silenced and disappeared. This gives them the best of all worlds: he stays in prison, with no need to prove he’s guilty of anything. That’s despotic.”

A particularly high-security prison, H.M.P. Belmarsh is generally considered the U.K.’s most notorious jail, taking in prisoners from around the country that other prisons cannot handle. The government’s 2019 report on conditions inside the facility noted it was overrun with 120 violent gangs and that there were 161 recorded inmate assaults on staff. After a COVID-19 outbreak this year, inmates have been largely locked down in their cells, typically for 23 hours a day.

On Monday, Baraitser ruled that Assange would not be sent to the United States as she was not convinced that the U.S. prison system could guarantee he would not commit suicide while incarcerated. The publisher faced up to 175 years in prison for his alleged breach of the Espionage Act of 1917 while receiving classified information from U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning. However, she sided with the United States on both their assertions and the legality of their claims, setting a precedent that some called a “chilling” ruling for investigative journalism.

Wikileaks disseminated Manning’s information, which came to be known as the Iraq War Logs. Perhaps the most explosive revelation was a recording of a U.S. helicopter attack on central Baghdad in July 2007. The video shows American personnel massacring at least a dozen Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in cold blood. The images went viral on social media and showed a completely different side to the occupation than the carefully sanitized one the U.S. military had been fastidiously curating.

From 2013 to 2019, Assange was confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, unable to travel to the country that had offered him political asylum. However, keen to curry favor with Washington, new president Lenin Moreno allowed British authorities to enter the building and arrest him. Since then, he has been housed in Belmarsh. This new ruling prolongs his stay. But if the appeal is unsuccessful, the U.K. will no longer have any legal argument to keep him interned. Perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Australian.

The Assange saga: Practicing real journalism is criminally insane

The Assange saga: Practicing real journalism is criminally insane

January 07, 2021

By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Synchronicity is definitely fond of mirror wonderwalls. The Julian Assange saga seemed to have entered a new chapter as he was, in thesis, on his way to – conditional – freedom this past Monday, only one day after the first anniversary of the start of the Raging Twenties: the assassination of Maj Gen Qassem Soleimani.

The fate of the journalist the Empire seeks to terminate was just juxtaposed to the fate of the warrior/diplomat the empire already terminated.

Two days later, Julian Assange was de facto re-incarcerated exactly as the Empire was hit by an “insurrection” which, whenever instigated in that distant “Third World”, is celebrated in Exceptionalistan as “people power”.

The invaluable Craig Murray, from inside Westminster Magistrates Court No. 1 in London, meticulously presented the full contours  of the insanity this Wednesday.

Read it in conjunction with the positively terrifying judgment delivered on Monday in the United States government case against Julian Assange.

The defining issue, for all those who practice real journalism all across the world, is that the judgment affirms, conclusively, that any journalist can be prosecuted under the US Espionage Act. Since a 1961 amendment, the Espionage Act carries universal jurisdiction.

The great John Pilger memorably describes “judge” Vanessa Baraitser as “that Gothic woman”. She is in fact an obscure public servant, not a jurist. Her judgment walks and talks like it was written by a mediocre rookie hack. Or, better yet, entirely lifted from the US Department of Justice indictment.

Julian Assange was – at the last minute – discharged on theoretically humanitarian grounds. So the case had, in effect, ended. Not really. Two days later, he was sent back to Belmarsh, a squalid maximum security prison rife with Covid-19. So the case is ongoing.

WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnnson correctly noted, “It is unjust and unfair and illogical when you consider her ruling of two days ago about Julian’s health in large part because he is in Belmarsh prison (…) To send him back there doesn’t make any sense.”

It does when one considers the real role of Baraitser – at a loss to juggle between the imperatives of the imperial agenda and the necessity of saving the face of British justice.

Baraitser is a mere, lowly foot soldier punching way above her weight. The real power in the Assange case is Lady Emma Arbuthnot, forced out of a visible role because of very compromising, direct ties she and her husband Lord Arbuthnot maintain with British intelligence and military, first revealed by – who else – WikiLeaks.

It was Arbuthnot who picked up obscure Baraitser – who dutifully follows her road map. In court, as Murray has detailed in a series of searing reports, Baraitser essentially covers her incompetence with glaring vindictiveness.

Baraitser discharged Julian Assange, according to her own reasoning, because she was not convinced the appalling American gulag would prevent him from committing suicide.

But the key issue is that before reaching this conclusion, she agreed and reinforced virtually every point of the US indictment.

So at this point, on Monday, the “Gothic woman” was performing a contortion to save the US from the profound global embarrassment of prosecuting a de facto journalist and publisher for revealing imperial war crimes, not United States government secrets.

Two days later, the full picture became crystal clear. There was nothing “humanitarian” about that judgment. Political dissent was equaled with mental illness. Julian Assange was branded as criminally insane. Once again, practicing journalism was criminalized.

There are reasons to believe though, that a United States government appeal may fail. A British High Court would be reluctant to overturn a judgment where Baraitser actually established findings of fact: a direct correlation between the state of the American gulag, and the extreme danger to Assange’s health if he’s thrown inside this system.

As it stands, it didn’t even matter that Assange’s defense offered a full package to obtain bail, from home arrest to the use of an ankle bracelet. Baraitser’s notion that the British security state would not be able to prevent his “escape” wearing an ankle bracelet in the middle of a total, police state-style lockdown does not even qualify as a joke.

So Julian Assange is back to suffering a perverse, interminable rewrite of Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum.

The US government’s legal strategy before the High Court convenes in April is basically to try to prove its American gulag is competent enough to prevent a suicide – even though the ultimate aim of this post-truth Inquisition seems to be the termination of Julian Assange inside the penal system. That goal doesn’t even require a supermax prison in Colorado. Belmarsh will do.

صبية السفارة….صيدا تصوّب البوصلة

See the source image

ابراهيم الأمين 

الخميس 17 كانون الأول 2020

«اللي بجَنبو مسلّة بتنعَروا»!

التسريبات عن دور الحكومات الغربية في رعاية «الأنشطة المدنية التغييرية» ليست جديدة. والمعلومات المتداولة كثيرة حول أدوار تفصيلية تقوم بها هذه الجهة أو تلك. وفي كل مرة، يلجأ المشار اليهم بعنوان «المتعاونين» مع هذه الجهات الدولية الى الاحتجاج، بعد إشهار ما يخص «تعاونهم»، سواء على شكل محاضر اجتماعات جرت معهم (وثائق الخارجية الاميركية)، أم على شكل خلاصات وتوصيات تشير الى أدوارهم (وثائق السعودية والامارات). مع ذلك، يمارس هؤلاء دفاعاً فيه حياء من يشعر بأنه بات من دون غطاء، إلى درجة تستحق الشفقة، كما هي حال معارضين سوريين (تحولوا إلى أدوات في معركة تدمير الدولة والمجتمع في سوريا) امتنعت «الأخبار» – عن سابق تصميم – عن نشر ما يتعلق بـ«تعاونهم» أيضاً، رغم أن تفاصيل ذلك باتت مباحة على موقع «ويكيليكس»!

لكنَّ ثمة أمراً غريباً يحصل منذ أيام في بيروت. لم تنشر «الأخبار» سوى الاطار العام للوثائق المسرّبة من جهات بريطانية حول برامج الدعم التي قدمتها حكومة صاحبة الجلالة الى «المتمردين» في لبنان. ما نُشر لا يُقارن بما نُشر سابقاً حول البرامج نفسها في سوريا، ولا يمثّل سوى رأس جبل الجليد في ملفات موثّقة، بصورة رسمية وغير رسمية، حول تفاصيل العمل البريطاني المستمر في لبنان منذ عقدين على الاقل، مع حرارة أعلى منذ نحو عقد. مع ذلك، ثارت ثائرة «صبية السفارة» ممن استشعروا «خطر» الكشف عن صلاتهم العميقة بهذا المشروع، وبادروا الى حملة ردود لها عنوان واحد: إذا كنا متّهمين بالعمالة للغرب، فأنتم عملاء لإيران… ما يعني عودة من جديد الى لعبة الأشقياء المحبّبة والتي لها عنوان واحد: «بيّي أقوى من بيّك»!

حقيقة الأمر تكمن في أن هذه المجموعات وعدت مشغّليها بكثير من الانجازات. أساساً، لم تتحمّل رؤوس هؤلاء أورام 17 تشرين عندما تخيّلوا أنفسهم أمام قصر الشتاء في لينينغراد، وهم الذين لم يتقدموا مرة واحدة صفوف الشباب المحتج. بل كانوا يتكلون، طوال الوقت، على «أطفال اليسار» أو «فقراء الضواحي وطرابلس». وإلا، هل في ذاكرة أحد خبر عن اعتقال أحد هؤلاء أو توقيفه أو ضربه من قبل جلاوزة السلطة؟ لم يحصل ذلك… ولن يحصل، لأن هؤلاء الصبية تعلّموا وتدرّبوا ليتولّوا إدارة البلاد، ولكي يُطلّوا منظّرين على الشاشات، خصوصاً «شاشات الثورة» التي اهتمت بها مشاريع صاحبة الجلالة ايضاً، تماماً كما تهتم بها اليوم مشيخة الامارات العربية المتحدة أو برنامج الدعاية الاميركية؛ إذ لم يعد سراً ما تدفعه دولة الامارات والولايات المتحدة لقنوات «الجديد» و«مر تي في» و«المؤسسة اللبنانية للإرسال» مقابل خدمات التحريض ضد حزب الله، حيث أمكن، وضد حلفاء الحزب، حيث يجب. ولن تكون مقدمة نشرة أخبار «الجديد» المليئة بالقبح والحقد والسفالة تجاه الرئيس ميشال عون، قبل يومين، آخر الأنشطة الثورية لهذه الموبقات الموجودة على شكل هياكل خراسانية أو بشرية!

المهم أن هؤلاء «الصبية» انزعجوا من فتح الملف فقط. وهم في حال قلق من المستور الذي لم يكشف بعد. وربما يدرسون، الآن، كيفية إعادة النظر في حساباتهم، لأنه عندما تُنشر أرقام الاموال التي حصلوا عليها، ستطرح الاسئلة في دوائرهم الضيقة، وعندما تُنشر البرامج سيسأل القريبون منهم عن حقيقة ما أنجز. إلا أن هذا القلق لم يجعل توترهم يقتصر على الهجوم الأعمى دفاعاً عن أنفسهم، بل دفعهم الى قطع «شرش الحياء»، لأنهم وجدوا أنه لم يعد هناك من داع للتبرؤ من الانتماء الطوعي الى مشروع له هدف واحد أحد: ضرب المقاومة في لبنان، سواء كان ذلك عبر تدمير الدولة بحجة مكافحة الفساد، أم تدمير المؤسسات بحجة أنها خاضعة لسيطرة حزب الله، وشن حملة إعلامية بأدوات مختلفة تحت عنوان الدفاع عن الحريات، من «تمكين المرأة» و«حقوق المثليين» الى «إدارة النفايات الصلبة» وتقليص حجم القطاع العام بحجة تطهيره من حشو أزلام السلطة.

ما نُشر حول تفاصيل العمل البريطاني في لبنان لا يمثّل سوى رأس جبل الجليد في ملفات موثّقة


هؤلاء الصبية لا يهتمون لبقاء شيء في لبنان، ويظهرون استعدادا لتدمير صروح من داخلها. ترى، مثلاً، كيف يتصرف «العلمانيون» الذي حصدوا الحكومة الطلابية في الجامعة الاميركية مع خطط فضلو خوري وبرامجه لتدمير الجامعة وتفريغها من أصحاب الرأي الآخر وإبعاد الخبرات الجدية ودفع كثيرين الى الهجرة، بحجة تقليص النفقات، وهو الذي لم يقل لنا ما هو حجم التبرعات التي حصلت عليها الجامعة لترميم ما دمره انفجار المرفأ من زجاج فيها. هل لأحد أن يسأل عن الرقم؟ ما يقوم به خوري في هذه المؤسسة بات يرقى الى مصاف التآمر على تدمير صرح كبير، لأنه صار واحداً من مجموعة تعتبر أن بيروت لا تستحق مؤسسة لها سمعة أكاديمية مقبولة، إلا في حال صمتنا عن سوء سمعتها الأخلاقية والسياسية، وامتنعنا عن التدقيق في طريقة إدارتها اليومية لشؤون العاملين فيها، علماً بأنه في الوقت نفسه الذي قرر فيه رفع الاقساط بنسبة 160 في المئة، وهو يعرف أن النتيجة تعني إبعاد ثلث الطلاب من ذوي الاصول الاجتماعية المتوسطة، أطلق معركة في وجه العاملين بعقود مع الجامعة (غير المتفرغين)، أي ممن لا يتقاضون راتباً شهرياً مع بدلاته وضرائبه. فوضع ميزانية لهم تجعل عملهم أقرب الى السخرة، صارفاً لهم زيادات لا تتجاوز قيمتها ثلاثين دولاراً، فيما يوقّع عقوداً خاصة لمن يعملون على العلاقات العامة بآلاف الدولارات الطازجة شهرياً. أكثر من ذلك، فقد قرر تعديل آلية احتساب مداخيل العاملين لديه من حملة الجنسية الأميركية، بقصد رفع نسبة الضريبة على دخلهم، والنتيجة، أنه يحتسب الدخل على أدنى سعر للصرف، بينما يدفع للحكومة الأميركية ضرائب أكبر… لكن بالدولار الطازج نفسه.

«صبية السفارة» هؤلاء «يصادف» أنهم تلامذة وأساتذة ومتعاونون ومتعاملون وخبراء في «دكانة فضلو خوري وشركاه». وهؤلاء يريدون اليوم نقل المواجهة الى مستوى جديد، لكنهم لا يزالون يخشون إشهار علاقتهم بالغرب الاستعماري، ويرفضون الإقرار بأنهم يعملون عنده وفي خدمة أهدافه. ولو كان بينهم من يملك شجاعة القول لخرج علينا ليقول: نحن أحرار في اختيار الدولة التي نتأثر بأفكارها، وفي اختيار الجهات والحكومات التي نعمل وفق برامجها، وفي تلقّي الأموال من دون الحاجة الى شروحات أو توضيحات أو تبريرات.

لكن مهلاً. هل تعتقدون أنكم إذا رفعتم صوت صراخكم فستوقفون عملية فضحكم، أو أن ذبابكم الإلكتروني قادر على غسلكم من عار التآمر على أبناء بلدكم والمشاركة في ارتكاب أفظع الجرائم في حقهم، والتورط في أكبر عملية إعداد لأكبر عدوان وحشي يعدّ له الغرب على لبنان، أو أن كل برامجكم عن محاربة الفساد والدفاع عن الحريات ستؤهلكم لقيادة البلد… اللهم إلا إذا كان ارتفاع معنوياتكم سببه رأفة «أهل الأمر» بكم، أو لأنكم تشعرون بـ«وهم القوة» لأن مموّليكم في عواصم القبح قد أشهروا علاقتهم مع العدو؟

مشكلتكم أنكم مجرد صبية. لكن لم يتح لكم اللعب في أحياء طبيعية. لذا لا تجيدون الركل ولا حتى السباب. كل ما تعرفون القيام به، هو تقمّص شخصية الرجل الأبيض الذي حبذا لو تجيدون سماعه في تقييم أحوالكم كمجرد فقراء العقل وحقيري الأنفس!

البناء
صيدا تصوّب البوصلة

في خطوة غير عاديّة رغم كونها تعبيراً هو الأقرب لتاريخ هذه المدينة العريقة في نضالها الوطني والقومي، فصيدا هي ذات موقع وبصمة في كل تاريخ النضال لأجل فلسطين وهي عرين المناضل الوطني والقومي الشهيد معروف سعد ومن بعده نجله الشهيد مصطفى سعد، لكن السياق السياسي الراهن يجعل الموقف الاحتجاجيّ الفاعل الذي عطل زيارة السفيرة الأميركية الى بلدية صيدا ذا قيمة مختلفة، والإعلان عن إلغاء الزيارة من السفارة الأميركية لا تعوّضه صورة للسفيرة من القلعة البحريّة في ظل العواصف لمجرد القول إنها قبلت التحدّي وهي تعلم أن التحدّي كان ينتظرها وهربت.

قيمة الحدث بزاويتين جديدتين، الأولى أنه في زمن العقوبات الأميركية وانقسام الوسط السياسيّ بأغلبيته بين نصفين، نصف يتأقلم مع السياسات الأميركية ونصف يتفادى الظهور في الصفوف الأمامية للمواجهة، هذا بمعزل عن الذين يمثلون فرق التطبيل والتزمير للسياسات الأميركية، والاعتقاد السائد بأن الذين يقفون خارج كل ألوان هذا السياق جذرياً هم حكر على لون طائفي وعقائدي يتوسطه حزب الله، فتأتي المدينة الجنوبية التي كانت دائماً تمنح المقاومة بعدها الوطني والقومي بانتمائها الطائفي المختلف لتؤكد موقعها كعاصمة للمقاومة وتُعيد الكرة وتقول إن ليس للمواجهة مع السياسات الأميركية لوناً طائفياً.

الزاوية الثانية هي أن الذين قادوا الحراك بوجه السفيرة الأميركية لا ينتمون الى الخط العقائديّ الذي يمثله حزب الله، أي الخط الإسلامي، بل إنهم لا ينتمون الى أي من المجموعات الحزبية الكبرى التي تتصدّر المشهد الصيداوي، فالمجموعة التي نظمت التحرك هي مجموعة يساريّة قوميّة من الحزب الديمقراطي الشعبي الذي يمتلك في صيدا قاعدة نضالية متجذّرة وله حضور مميز في الحراك الصيداوي الذي مثل حضور صيدا في انتفاضة 17 تشرين ومن حوله مجموعات يسارية بعضها ينتمي للحزب الشيوعيّ وبعضها للتنظيم الشعبيّ الناصريّ.

نموذج حراك صيدا كما ظهر أمس يصوّب البوصلة الوطنية، في الرسالة التي يحملها للأميركيين، الذين ربما توهّموا أنهم نجحوا بترويض النخب اللبنانية والشباب اللبناني وهم يستقبلون عشرات نشطاء جماعات المنظمات «المدنية» طالبة التمويل، ومثلهم من الساسة التقليديين، وكذلك يصوّب الحراك الصيداويّ البوصلة في شأن الحراك نفسه فيقدّم نموذجاً لقيادة شعبيّة ميدانيّة فاعلة في الحراك تدرك حجم الترابط بين النضال لأجل التغيير وبين التمسك بخيار المقاومة.

مقالات ذات صلة

As His Extradition Trial Drags on, Media and Rights Groups Are Still Ignoring Julian Assange

By Alan Macleod

Source

Many mainstream rights groups and media organizations have a mixed history when it comes to opposing Washington’s agenda. The case of Julian Assange has been no exception.

The extradition case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange continues in London. The U.S. government is indicting the Australian living on the other side of the world under its own Espionage Act, with the case widely seen as setting an important precedent for freedom of speech and of the media worldwide.

Yet as the case reaches its pinnacle, a number of press freedom groups have gone silent on the matter. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has not mentioned Assange in months, on either its website or its Twitter account. London-based PEN International has only one article this year on the Australian and appears to have gone quiet since July. The CPJ has also refused to include him among its list of jailed journalists, arguing that Wikileaks’ role is more that of a publisher. While this could be debatable, the omission of by far the most famous and influential of the world’s 248 imprisoned media figures could be seen as a politically calculated decision.

Big media outlets seem just as uninterested in the U.S. government’s attempts to capture the man who released hundreds of thousands of documents detailing American war crimes, including the deliberate killing of two Reuters journalists. The New York Times, for instance, has published only two articles on the subject, and nothing in eleven days. But the Times’ coverage is better than most outlets, with nothing whatsoever in CNN, and MSNBC’s entire coverage amounting to one sentence, which discussed the DNC hacks, but not the hearing.

To be fair to the media, the conditions the U.K. government has set for the case make it absurdly difficult for journalists to follow. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that public access is highly restricted, while only a small handful of journalists are allowed into the courtroom every day. Journalists wishing to watch live proceedings must register as journalists and log in between exactly 9:30 and 9:40 a.m. If they miss the time, they cannot access the session, and if they disconnect at any time, even because of a momentary lapse in wifi, they are shut out of the system. Journalists have complained throughout Assange’s cases of poor connections and an inability to hear anything during proceedings. That has not stopped the committed, however, with smaller organizations continuing to report the proceedings live.

In recent days the argument between the prosecution and the defense has revolved around Assange’s mental state. A psychiatrist on the U.S.’ government’s side told the Old Bailey yesterday that he believes Assange to be a “resilient” character with only “mild clinical depression” and would therefore be able to “resist any suicidal impulse” were he to be sent to the U.S. Assange is facing up to 175 years in a Colorado supermax jail, sometimes described as one of the few blacksites on American soil. Inmates at the center are regularly force fed and are barred from sharing their stories.

On the other hand, a doctor who treated him while he was forced to live in the Ecuadorian embassy in London stressed her dismay at his deterioration while being held in Belmarsh Prison. “I think Mr. Assange is at very high risk of completing a suicide if he were to be extradited,” she told the judge.

FILE – In this Sunday, June 16, 2013 file photo, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, left, appears with Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)

The Assange case has enormous ramifications for the future of press freedom. The government has included a great many standard journalistic procedures — such as protecting sources’ names, using encrypted files, and encouraging sources to leak more to them — among its reasons for indictment. This, many have argued, would essentially criminalize investigative journalism. Trevor Timm, a co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told the courtroom that if Assange is prosecuted, then every journalist who has possessed a secret or leaked file — the lifeblood of the industry — could be charged.

Speaking to German filmmakers, ex-CIA Director Leon Panetta was remarkably blunt about the U.S.’ goal: “All you can do is hope you can ultimately take action against those that were involved in revealing that information so you can send a message to others not to do the same thing,” he said, strongly implying that the indictment is politically motivated and a warning to others who might challenge the empire.The Cost of ResistanceWhere will Julian Assange end up if his extradition is successful and Roger Hallam and the end of the revolutionary initiative.

Unfortunately, many of the mainstream rights groups that the world relies on to lead on matters of importance have a mixed history when it comes to directly opposing Washington’s agenda. Human Rights Watch (HRW), for instance, carried water for the U.S.-backed coup in Bolivia last year, its director, Kenneth Roth, describing it as a “transitional moment” and an “uprising,” rather than the manifestly more appropriate word, “coup.” HRW also described the new military government’s law giving all security forces complete immunity from prosecution merely a “problematic decree,” rather than a license to massacre, which is exactly what they did immediately.

HRW has not discussed Assange for nearly 18 months, the most recent result on its website dated May 2019 (although this was a clear defense of his rights). Amnesty International, on the other hand, has forcefully condemned the U.S. attempt and has been repeatedly blocked in its attempts to have its fair trial monitors enter the courtroom. “This hearing is the latest worrying salvo in a full-scale assault on the right to freedom of expression,” said Amnesty’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks.

Julian Assange trial: the mask of Empire has fallen

Julian Assange trial: the mask of Empire has fallen

Source

September 18, 2020

By Pepe Escobar with permission from the author and first posted at Asia Times

The concept of “History in the making” has been pushed to extremes when it comes to the extraordinary public service being performed by historian, former UK diplomat and human rights activist Craig Murray.

Murray – literally, and on a global level – is now positioned as our man in the public gallery, as he painstakingly documents in vivid detail what could be defined as the trial of the century as far as the practice of journalism is concerned: the kangaroo court judging Julian Assange in Old Bailey, London.

Let’s focus on three of Murray’s reports this week – with an emphasis on two intertwined themes: what the US is really prosecuting, and how Western corporate media is ignoring the court proceedings.

Here, Murray reports the exact moment when the mask of Empire fell, not with a bang, but a whimper:

“The gloves were off on Tuesday as the US Government explicitly argued that all journalists are liable to prosecution under the Espionage Act (1917) for publishing classified information.” (italics mine).

“All journalists” means every legitimate journalist, from every nationality, operating in any jurisdiction.

Interpreting the argument, Murray added, “the US government is now saying, completely explicitly, in court, those reporters could and should have gone to jail and that is how we will act in future. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and all the “great liberal media” of the US are not in court to hear it and do not report it (italics mine), because of their active complicity in the “othering” of Julian Assange as something sub-human whose fate can be ignored. Are they really so stupid as not to understand that they are next?

Err, yes.”

The point is not that self-described paladins of “great liberal media” are stupid. They are not covering the charade in Old Bailey because they are cowards. They must keep their fabled “access” to the bowels of Empire – the kind of “access” that allowed Judith Miller to “sell” the illegal war on Iraq in countless front pages, and allows CIA asset and uber-opportunist Bob Woodward to write his “insider” books.

Nothing to see here

Previously, Murray had already detailed how “the mainstream media are turning a blind eye. There were three reporters in the press gallery, one of them an intern and one representing the NUJ. Public access continues to be restricted and major NGOs, including Amnesty, PEN and Reporters Without Borders, continue to be excluded both physically and from watching online.”

Murray also detailed how “the six of us allowed in the public gallery, incidentally, have to climb 132 steps to get there, several times a day. As you know, I have a very dodgy ticker; I am with Julian’s dad John who is 78; and another of us has a pacemaker.”

So why is he “the man in the public gallery”? “I do not in the least discount the gallant efforts of others when I explain that I feel obliged to write this up, and in this detail, because otherwise the vital basic facts of the most important trial this century, and how it is being conducted, would pass almost completely unknown to the public. If it were a genuine process, they would want people to see it, not completely minimize attendance both physically and online.”

Unless people around the world are reading Murray’s reports – and very few others with much less detail – they will ignore immensely important aspects plus the overall appalling context of what’s really happening in the heart of London. The main fact, as far as journalism is concerned, is that Western corporate media is completely ignoring it.

Let’s check the UK coverage on Day 9, for instance.

There was no article in The Guardian – which cannot possibly cover the trial because the paper, for years, was deep into no holds barred smearing and total demonization of Julian Assange.

There was nothing on The Telegraph – very close to MI6 – and only a brief AP story on the Daily Mail.

There was a brief article in The Independent only because one of the witnesses, Eric Lewis, is one of the directors of the Independent Digital News and Media Ltd which publishes the paper.

For years, the process of degrading Julian Assange to sub-human level was based on repeating a bunch of lies so often they become truth. Now, the conspiracy of silence about the trial does wonders to expose the true face of Western liberal “values” and liberal “democracy”.

Daniel Ellsberg speaks

Murray provided absolutely essential context for what Daniel “Pentagon Papers” Ellsberg made it very clear in the witness stand.

The Afghan War logs published by WikiLeaks were quite similar to low-level reports Ellsberg himself had written about Vietnam. The geopolitical framework is the same: invasion and occupation, against the interests of the absolute majority of the invaded and occupied.

Murray, illustrating Ellsberg, writes that “the war logs had exposed a pattern of war crimes: torture, assassination and death squads. The one thing that had changed since Vietnam was that these things were now so normalized they were classified below Top Secret.”

This is a very important point. All the Pentagon Papers were in fact Top Secret. But crucially, the WikiLeaks papers were not Top Secret: in fact they were below Top Secret, not subject to restricted distribution. So they were not really sensitive – as the United States government now alleges.

On the by now legendary Collateral Murder video, Murray details Ellsberg’s argument: “Ellsberg stated that it definitely showed murder, including the deliberate machine gunning of a wounded and unarmed civilian. That it was murder was undoubted. The dubious word was “collateral”, which implies accidental. What was truly shocking about it was the Pentagon reaction that these war crimes were within the Rules of Engagement. Which permitted murder.”

The prosecution cannot explain why Julian Assange withheld no less than 15,000 files; how he took a lot of time to redact the ones that were published; and why both the Pentagon and the State Dept. refused to collaborate with WikiLeaks. Murray: “Ten years later, the US Government has still not been able to name one single individual who was actually harmed by the WikiLeaks releases.”

Prometheus Bound 2.0

President Trump has made two notorious references to WikiLeaks on the record: “I love WikiLeaks” and “I know nothing about WikiLeaks”. That may reveal nothing on how a hypothetical Trump 2.0 administration would act if Julian Assange was extradited to the US. What we do now is that the most powerful Deep State factions want him “neutralized”. Forever.

I felt compelled to portray Julian Assange’s plight as Prometheus Bound 2.0. In this poignant post-modern tragedy, the key subplot centers on a deadly blow to true journalism, in the sense of speaking truth to power.

Julian Assange continues to be treated as an extremely dangerous criminal, as his partner Stella Moris describes it in a tweet.

Craig Murray will arguably enter History as the central character in a very small chorus warning us all about the tragedy’s ramifications.

It’s also quite fitting that the tragedy is also a commentary on a previous era that featured, unlike Blake’s poem, a Marriage of Hell and Hell: GWOT and OCO (Global War on Terror, under George W. Bush, and Overseas Contingency Operations under Barack Obama).

Julian Assange is being condemned for revealing imperial war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet in the end all that post-9/11 sound and fury signified nothing.

It actually metastasized into the worst imperial nightmare: the emergence of a prime, compounded peer competitor, the Russia-China strategic partnership.

“Not here the darkness, in this twittering world” (T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton). An army of future Assanges awaits.

Discussion of Wikileaks or any “Hacked Information” Banned Under New YouTube Rules

Snowden Assange

By Alan Macleod

Source

YouTube’s decision to ban discussion of hacked information on its platform is unlikely to improve election integrity in the US, it will, however, continue to tilt the balance in favor of established corporate-funded outlets like Fox News and CNN.

Social media giant YouTube announced yesterday a host of new measures it says are aimed at preventing any interference in the upcoming presidential elections. Chief among the list it wrote on its blog, is “removing content that contains hacked information, the disclosure of which may interfere with democratic processes, such as elections and censuses.” An example it gives, would be deleting “videos that contain hacked information about a political candidate.”

It also promised to “raise up authoritative voices” when it comes to current events and politics by changing its algorithm to show users more credible channels and “reduce the spread of harmful misinformation and borderline content.” Example channels that produce authoritative content, it tells readers, includes Fox News and CNN. It also noted it would expand information panels underneath videos.

There are a number of reasons this new policy could concern users of its platform. Firstly, the great majority of leaked information — the lifeblood of investigative journalism — is anonymous. Often, like in the cases of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning or Reality Winner, whistleblowers face serious consequences if their names become attached to documents exposing government or corporate malfeasance. But without a name to go with a document, the difference between leaked data and hacked data is impossible to define. Thus, powerful people and organizations could claim data was hacked, rather than leaked, and simply block all discussion of the matter on the platform. Hearing the news, some feared already existing content from investigative journalists would be subject to removal under the new guidelines.

YouTube’s choice of Fox News and CNN as reliable sources might also raise eyebrows in some quarters. According to the latest Reuters Institute Digital News Report, fewer than half of all Americans trust the two networks (Fox at 42 percent and CNN at 47 percent). And a new study from Gallup/Knight Foundation finds that fewer than a third of the country has a favorable view of the media more generally, including only 19 percent of those under thirty (YouTube’s prime demographic). Many go to the platform precisely because it offers alternative and more diverse opinions to corporate-dominated radio, print and television. But YouTube is now funneling them back towards those same sources.

The 2016 presidential election was colored by Wikileaks’ release of the Podesta emails, discussion of which would be banned under YouTube’s new rules. The Hillary Clinton campaign alleges the emails were hacked from Podesta’s computer. The published communications, the authenticity of which is not in doubt, informed the country of the machinations of the Democratic Party, how it tipped the electoral scales in favor of Clinton and against Bernie Sanders in the primary, how Clinton stated to Wall Street that she had a “public” and a “private” position on regulation, insinuating she was lying to the nation, how representatives of Qatar wanted to meet with her husband Bill for “five minutes” to present him with a $1 million check for his birthday, and how her own staff held her in contempt. The emails, Clinton contends, swung the election from her to Trump. If this is the case, the decision to ban all discussion of them would have fundamentally altered the democratic process.

If YouTube’s actions seem drastic, the Australian state of Queensland introduced laws yesterday that made it illegal to publish allegations of corruption against any politician during election season. Those found guilty would be punished with a six-month jail sentence and a fine of nearly U.S.$5,000. After a public outcry, the law was overturned after only 24 hours.

While misinformation online is a problem, there exist other, more serious threats to electoral integrity. President Trump, who said that Republicans would never get into power again if everybody voted, told Fox Business this week that he is actively withholding funds from the U.S. Postal Service in order to undermine the election to his benefit. “They need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he said. “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it.” Add decades of gerrymandering and a campaign of voter suppression that has seen over 1,200 polling stations across the South, primarily in black neighborhoods, and Trump might be able to overcome his polling deficit and beat Biden.

YouTube’s decision to ban discussion of hacked information on its platform is unlikely to significantly improve political discourse or election integrity in the United States. It will, however, continue to tilt the balance in favor of established corporate-funded outlets, to the detriment of new, alternative voices.

%d bloggers like this: